Willis Alston

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Willis Alston
DiedApril 10, 1837
OccupationPlanter, politician
ChildrenAriella Hawkins
RelativesJames Boyd Hawkins (son-in-law)

Willis Alston (1769 – April 10, 1837) was a U.S. Congressman from North Carolina. A member of the Democratic-Republican Party and later a Jacksonian, he served in the 6th through 13th congresses (1799–1815) and the 19th through 21st congresses (1825–1831). He was the nephew of Nathaniel Macon.[1]

Early life[edit]

Willis Alston was born in 1769 near Littleton, North Carolina, in Halifax County.


Alston engaged in agricultural pursuits. He was elected to the North Carolina House of Commons in 1790 and served for two years; in 1794 he was elected to a single term in the North Carolina Senate.

In 1798, Alston was elected as a Federalist to the U.S. House, defeating incumbent Thomas Blount and two other candidates. Alston served from March 4, 1799, to March 4, 1815. Early in the Jefferson administration, Alston changed parties and became affiliated with the Republican Party. Local Federalists recruited former Gov. William R. Davie to challenge Alston in 1803, but Alston survived Davie's challenge. Alston chaired the House Committee on Revisal and Unfinished Business during the 13th U.S. Congress. In the election of April 1813, Alston defeated Daniel Mason, the Peace candidate, with the smallest margin of his re-election campaigns (56%-44%), and Alston retired at the end of the term.

He returned to the state House of Commons between 1820 and 1824, and then returned to Washington in 1825, elected as a Jacksonian Democrat. Serving three terms (March 4, 1825 – March 4, 1831), Alston chaired the Committee on Elections during the 21st Congress. He declined to seek re-election in 1830 and returned to agriculture.

Relationship with John Randolph[edit]

Alston and John Randolph of Roanoke had an intense dislike for each other, and once had a pitched fight in a Washington boarding house,[2] where heated words led to them throwing tableware at each other.[3] Six years later, they fought again in a stairwell at the House after Alston loudly referred to Randolph as a "puppy".[3] Randolph beat Alston bloody with his cane and the two had to be separated by other congressmen.[4] Randolph was fined $20 for this breach of the peace.[4]

Death and legacy[edit]

Alston died on April 10, 1837 in Halifax and is buried at his plantation home of Butterwood, near Littleton. His granddaughter, Missouri Alston Pleasants, established the Alston-Pleasants scholarship fund in his memory.[5]


  1. ^ Alston-Pleasants Post-Graduate Scholars Fund: Willis "Congress" Alston" biography
  2. ^ Sawyer, Lemuel (1844). A Biography of John Randolph, of Roanoke. New York, NY: Burgess, Stringer & Co. p. 42.
  3. ^ a b A Biography of John Randolph, of Roanoke, p. 42.
  4. ^ a b A Biography of John Randolph, of Roanoke, pp. 42-43.
  5. ^ Alston-Pleasants Post-Graduate Scholars Fund: "Miss Missouri"

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Thomas Blount
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from North Carolina's 9th congressional district

Succeeded by
Marmaduke Williams
Preceded by
Matthew Locke
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from North Carolina's 2nd congressional district

Succeeded by
Joseph H. Bryan
Preceded by
George Outlaw
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from North Carolina's 2nd congressional district

Succeeded by
John Branch