DEBOW, James Dunwoody Brownson, journalist and statistician, was born at Charleston, S. C., July 10, 1820. He was descended from distinguished colonial and revolutionary ancestors, who were among the earliest settlers of South Carolina. His father, Garrett DeBow, whose ancestors, James and John DeBow, were soldiers in Washington's army, was a native of New Jersey, but removed when quite young to Charleston, S. C. , where he became a wealthy merchant. Sudden reverses in business, occurring just before his death, left his son an orphan without the means of pursuing his education. Thrown upon his own resources, young DeBow obtained employment in a long-established mercantile house, where he remained seven years, and acquired the methodical business habits which were so useful in his subsequent career. Mercantile pursuits, however, were not congenial to the taste of the ambitious young man. He entered Cokesburg Institute to prepare himself for college. Returning to his native city he entered Charleston College, where he was graduated with distinguished honors in 1843. He then studied law, and was for a short time a practitioner at Charleston, but his fondness for literary and statistical pursuits led him to be a frequent contributor to the "Southern Quarterly Review," then published in Charleston by Mr. Daniel K. Whitaker. His contributions to this periodical marked him as a writer of high literary merit, and some of them became noted, especially "The Life of Robert Sieur de LaSalle"; "The Characteristics of a Statesman," and " Law and Lawyers," and "The Northern Pacific, California, Oregon and the Oregon Question." The last was translated into French, and gave rise to an animated debate in the French chamber of deputies, and was much discussed by British statesmen. In 1844 he became chief editor of the "Southern Quarterly Review." In 1845 he removed to New Orleans, La., and established "DeBow's Review," a journal which acquired a large circulation. In 1848 he was appointed professor of political economy in the University of Louisiana, but soon resigned to become chief of the bureau of statistics for the state of Louisiana, serving three years, and making a valuable report to the legislature. He was appointed by Pres. Pierce, in 1853, as superintendent of the seventh census of the United States. He introduced new and valuable features in census statistics, a large part of which he subsequently compiled in a volume entitled, "A Statistical View of the United States." Congress ordered 150,000 copies of this work to be printed as a compendium of the census of 1850. He remained as superintendent of the census until the latter part of 1855, but during all this time he gave unremitting attention to the duties of editor of "DeBow's Review," which continued to grow in public favor. In 1853 he published a work m three volumes, entitled: “Industrial Resources of the Southwest," which was mainly compiled from his "Review." After retiring from office, he took an active part in the discussion of the vital political questions which preceded the civil war, was a member of every southern commercial convention, and was president of the convention at Knoxville in 1857. In addition he devoted much time to literary labor, as a lecturer and writer on various subjects, and as a contributor to the “Encyclopedia Britannica." He was an ardent friend and admirer of Calhoun, and a strong advocate of the secession of the southern states. His "Review” was a powerful factor in the formation of southern sentiment, and its whole influence was thrown in favor of the contemplated movement. Soon after the formation of the Confederate government, Mr. DeBow was appointed its chief agent for the purchase and sale of cotton. After the close of the war he resumed the publication of "The Review," which had been suspended during the occupation of New Orleans by the Federal forces. Soon afterwards he was elected president of the Tennessee Pacific Railroad Co. Animated by the ardent wish to connect his name with "the construction of a railroad running from the Mississippi to the Pacific, " he labored so assiduously in behalf of this enterprise, at the same time giving devoted work to his "Review," that his health was broken down. Mr. DeBow was twice married: first, to Caroline Poe of Georgetown, D. C., in 1854, and again, on Sept. 4, 1860, to Martha E. Johns, who survived him with three children — James Dunwoody Brownson, Benjamin Franklin DeBow, and Evilina Johns, wife of Col. John W. Thomas, president of the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis railway. He died at Elizabethtown, N. J., Feb. 27, 1867.
"DeBow, James Dunwoody Brownson,” The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography (New York: James T. White & Company, 1898), 8: 162-163.