William Sanford Pennington

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William Sanford Pennington
William Sanford Pennington.jpg
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey
In office
June 19, 1815 – September 17, 1826
Appointed byJames Madison
Preceded byRobert Morris
Succeeded byWilliam Rossell
6th Governor of New Jersey
In office
October 29, 1813 – June 19, 1815
Preceded byAaron Ogden
Succeeded byWilliam Kennedy
as Acting Governor
Member of the New Jersey General Assembly
In office
Personal details
Born1757 (1757)
Newark, Province of New Jersey, British America
Died (aged 68–69)
Newark, New Jersey, U.S.
Spouse(s)Phoebe Wheeler (c. 1760–1804)
Elizabeth Pierson (c. 1765–1840)

William Sanford Pennington (1757 – September 17, 1826) was the sixth Governor of New Jersey, serving from 1813 to 1815.[1] From 1815 to 1826 he served as a United States federal judge.[2][3]


Pennington was born in 1757 to Mary Sanford and Samuel Pennington in Newark in the Province of New Jersey. He joined the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. In 1777 he was promoted to a sergeant in the Second Regiment of Artillery. He was promoted to second lieutenant in 1780. At the end of the war he was brevetted a captain by an Act of Congress.[4]


Pennington married Phoebe Wheeler around 1786. They had ten children including William Pennington (1796–1862) who became Governor of New Jersey and Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. After the death of his wife in 1804, he married Elizabeth Pierson (c. 1765–1840) on July 13, 1805.[4]

Law and politics[edit]

After leaving the army, he read law in the Newark, New Jersey office of Elias Boudinot. He served in the New Jersey General Assembly in 1797, 1798, and 1799. He was elected to the New Jersey Legislative Council in 1801 and reelected in 1802. In 1802 he was admitted to the New Jersey State Bar. From 1803 to 1804 he served as the clerk for Essex County, New Jersey. He also served as U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey from 1803 to 1804.[3] In 1805 he was elected to fill a vacancy in the New Jersey Supreme Court, where he remained until 1813. In 1812, Pennington was the Republican candidate for Governor of New Jersey and the following year won the gubernatorial election, becoming governor from 1813 to 1815.[3][4]

He joined other New Jersey officers in becoming a founding member of the Society of the Cincinnati in the State of New Jersey.[5].

On June 19, 1815, Pennington received a recess appointment from James Madison to a seat on the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. The position had been filled by Robert Morris. He was officially nominated on January 8, 1816 and confirmed by the United States Senate on January 9, 1816. He was seated as a judge on January 16, 1816.[1][3][4]

He died on September 17, 1826 in Newark, New Jersey.[1][2]


His papers are archived with The New Jersey Historical Society in Newark, New Jersey.[4] Pennington, New Jersey is named for him.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "William Sanford Pennington". Biographical Directory of Federal Judges. Federal Judicial Center. Retrieved November 22, 2011.
  2. ^ a b Francis Samuel Drake (1879). Dictionary of American biography: including men of the time ... and a supplement. Houghton; Osgood. p. 705. Retrieved November 22, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d "A Rich History of Public Service". United States Department of Justice. Retrieved November 22, 2011. William Sanford Pennington left the United States Attorney's Office in 1804 to become an Associate Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, and in 1813 he became the governor of New Jersey. (His son, William Pennington, would later be the governor of New Jersey from 1837 to 1843.) From 1815 until his death in 1826, Pennington served as the United States District Judge for the District of New Jersey.
  4. ^ a b c d e "William Sanford Pennington". New Jersey Historical Society. Retrieved November 22, 2011.
  5. ^ "William Pennington | The Society of the Cincinnati in the State of New Jersey". njcincinnati.org. Retrieved May 17, 2019.

Further reading[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Aaron Ogden
Governors of New Jersey
October 29, 1813 – June 19, 1815
Succeeded by
William Kennedy
Acting Governor
Legal offices
Preceded by
Robert Morris
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey
Succeeded by
William Rossell