Herndon, William Henry

Life Span
Full name
William Henry Herndon
Place of Birth
Birth Date Certainty
Death Date Certainty
Sectional choice
Slave State
No. of Spouses
No. of Children
Archer G. Herndon (father), Rebecca Day Johnson (mother), Mary J. Maxey (first wife, 1840), Anna Miles (second wife, 1862)
Other Education
Illinois College
Attorney or Judge
Farmer or Planter
Writer or Artist
Relation to Slavery
White non-slaveholder
Political Parties
Other Affiliations
Abolitionists (Anti-Slavery Society)
Temperance (Prohibition)
Other state government
Local government

William Henry Herndon (American National Biography)

Herndon read law with Lincoln and his partner, Stephen T. Logan. Lincoln and Herndon became law partners almost immediately after Herndon was admitted to the Illinois bar in December 1844. Their partnership lasted until 1861 when Lincoln left for Washington to become president. During those seventeen years, Herndon complemented Lincoln in almost every way—a Democratic newspaper would later describe him as “Lincoln’s Man Friday.” Herndon was the office manager, attending to the details Lincoln disliked; he tended to stay in Springfield while Lincoln rode circuit; he favored philosophical discourse while Lincoln preferred an earthy anecdote. It is difficult to specify Herndon’s influences on Lincoln; theirs was a relationship that drew its closeness from daily contact, not from singular conversations. Herndon himself would later describe their partnership as one in which he did the reading while Lincoln did the thinking.

Herndon was active in Illinois politics in his own right, and later on behalf of Lincoln. Initially, he was a Whig, concerned about the underprivileged, slaves, and women. He was a staunch advocate of temperance, in spite of his own later problems with excessive drinking. As mayor of Springfield in 1854 he supported the beginning of a public school system and local prohibition, being so strongly in favor of temperance that he was not reelected. He moved to the Republican party in 1856, which he supported with great public enthusiasm though he had private doubts about the choice of John C. Frémont as its presidential candidate.
Walter F. Pratt, "Herndon, William Henry," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/11/11-00408.html.
Chicago Style Entry Link
Donald, David Herbert. "We Are Lincoln Men:" Abraham Lincoln and His Friends. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003. view record
Herndon, William H., and Jesse W. Weik. Herndon’s Lincoln. Edited by Douglas L. Wilson and Rodney O. Davis. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2006. view record
Temple, Wayne C. "Herndon On Lincoln: An Unknown Interview With a List of Books in The Lincoln & Herndon Law Office." Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 98, no. 1-2 (2005): 34-50. view record
Wilson, Douglas L. "Abraham Lincoln and 'That Fatal First of January.'" Civil War History 38, no. 2 (1992): 101-130. view record
Wilson, Douglas L. "William H. Herndon and Mary Todd Lincoln." Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association 22, no. 2 (2001): 1-26. view record
How to Cite This Page: "Herndon, William Henry," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, https://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/index.php/node/5883.