Alabama Secretaries of State

Rufus King Boyd


Secretary of State: 1874-1878


Rufus King Boyd, lawyer, Secretary of State of Alabama, was born in 1831, in Williamson County, Tenn., and died May 10, 1883, at Guntersville; son of Marcus Boyd, who lived in Williamston County, Tenn., where he was married to a Miss Hamilton, mother of Rufus K. Boyd, and moved to Springfield, where his first wife died, married a Miss Price, sister of William C. Price, United States Treasurer during Buchanan's administration, was a member of the Misssouri legislature several times, colonel in the Missouri state militia, U.S. Army, and grand master and grand high priest of Missouri Masonry. The maiden name of the paternal grandmother of Rufus K. Price was Edmiston, and her parents, as well as those of her husband, came from Ireland. Her father was killed at King's Mountain during the Revolutionary War. She was a cousin of Adam Clark, author of Clark's Commentaries. The Edmiston, now spelled Edmundsen, and Buchanan families, ancestors of Mr. Boyd, were prominent in the southeastern part of Pennsylvania to Virginia, and were of the same family from which President James Buchanan was descended. Sempronius Hamilton Boyd, brother of Rufus K., twice represented the Springfield, Mo., district in Congress, and was minister to Siam under President Benjamin Harrison. Another brother, Audley Shanklin Hamilton Boyd, was a physician at Carrsville, Ky.


Mr. Boyd received little education other than that obtained in the common schools of his neighborhood, and in 1849, when he was eighteen years old, he went to California and joined William Walker in his Nicaragua Enterprise. He probably escaped execution with Walker by being on a temporary recruiting mission in New Orleans, La., at the time of Walker's capture. When the War of Secession began, he joined Stewart's cavalry as a private and served until 1863, then returned to his home for the first time since leaving it in 1849, in order to organize a regiment of volunteers for the C.S. Army. Circumstances frustrated this attempt, and soon he left home again. For several years his family received no tidings of him, and of this period of his life nothing definite is known, but it is certain that he was a member of Quantrell's band of guerrillas during the remainder of the war. Frank James, the noted outlaw, when in prison in Huntsville, so stated, and said that he knew Boyd well. Dr. W.C. McCoy, later a Methodist minister in the northern Alabama conference, and father of Bishop McCoy, was a member of the same band. How Mr. Boyd received the knowledge of law that he possessed when he came to Alabama is unknown.


In December 1865, he located at Guntersville and formed a law partnership with the late Judge Louis Wyeth, under the firm name of Wyeth & Boyd. This partnership continued until Mr. Wyeth went on the bench as circuit judge. In 1872, Mr. Boyd was elected to the legislature from Marshall County and became a leader in that body. In 1874 he was nominated and elected Secretary of State on the Democratic ticket headed by George S. Houston, which redeemed Alabama from the carpetbag rule; and was re-elected for two years in 1876. He was an uncompromising Democrat, one of the acknowledged state leaders of his party, a Methodist Episcopalian, and a Master Mason. Married: March 15, 1866, at Guntersville, Amanda, daughter of Grandison and Martha Ann (Hampton) Greenwoood, natives of Georgia and Tennessee respectively, who lived at Guntersville; granddaughter of John Hampton of the same place. Last residence: Guntersville.


Owen, Thomas McAdory, History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography. Spartanburg: The Reprint Company Publishers, 1978 (1921), III, 189-190.