George E. Spencer

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George E. Spencer
United States Senator
from Alabama
In office
July 13, 1868 – March 3, 1879
Preceded byBenjamin Fitzpatrick
Succeeded byGeorge S. Houston
Personal details
Born(1836-11-01)November 1, 1836
Champion, New York
DiedFebruary 19, 1893(1893-02-19) (aged 56)
Washington, D.C.
CitizenshipUnited States of America
Political partyRepublican
(m. 1862; died 1867)
(m. 1877)
Military service
AllegianceUnited States of America
Branch/serviceUnion Army
Rank Colonel
Bvt. Brigadier General
Commands1st Alabama Cavalry Regiment
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War

George Eliphaz Spencer (November 1, 1836 – February 19, 1893) was an American politician and a U.S. senator from the state of Alabama who also served as an officer in the Union Army during the American Civil War.


Born in Champion, New York, Spencer was the son of Gordon Percival and Deborah Mallory Spencer. He educated at Montreal College in Canada. After relocating to Iowa he engaged in the study of law. During the Pike's Peak Gold Rush he briefly relocated to Colorado where in November 1859 he founded the town of Breckenridge. He married English author Bella Zilfa in 1862.[1]


During the American Civil War, Spencer enlisted as a captain on October 16, 1862. While serving on the staff of Brig. Gen. Grenville M. Dodge, he requested a transfer to the 1st Alabama Cavalry Regiment, a volunteer regiment made up of Southern Unionists, which did not have a permanent commander. Receiving a promotion to colonel, he led the regiment from September 11, 1863, until his resignation on July 5, 1865.[2]

After the war, Spencer returned to Alabama to practice law. His wife died of typhoid fever in 1867. For a time he served as register in bankruptcy for the fourth district of Alabama.[3]

Elected as a Republican to the United States Senate upon readmission of Alabama to the Union, Spencer served from July 13, 1868, to March 3, 1879.[4] The Ku Klux Klan and their supporters accused him of corruption and rewarding supporters in the legislature with patronage positions, allegations which he denied.[5][6]

He was appointed a commissioner of the Union Pacific Railroad with help from his previous leader, Major General Dodge. In 1877, he married prominent actress May Nunez, the niece and namesake of one-armed Confederate General William Wing Loring (May's given names at birth were "William Wing").[7] The couple then spent two years on a ranch in Nevada tending to mining interests before settling in Washington, D.C., about 1880.[8]


Spencer died in Washington, D.C., on February 19, 1893 (age 56 years, 110 days). He is interred at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.[9]


  1. ^ "George Eliphaz Spencer". 1st Alabama Cavalry. Archived from the original on 13 December 2013. Retrieved 2 July 2013.
  2. ^ "George Eliphaz Spencer". Arlington National Cemetery. Retrieved 2 July 2013.
  3. ^ "George Eliphaz Spencer". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 2 July 2013.
  4. ^ "George Eliphaz Spencer". Govtrack US Congress. Retrieved 2 July 2013.
  5. ^ Spencer, George Eliphaz (1875). "Report of the Joint Committee of the General Assembly of Alabama: In Regard to the Alleged Election of Geo. E. Spencer, as U. S. Senator, Together with Memorial and Evidence".
  6. ^ Fitzgerald, Michael W. (1998). "Republican Factionalism and Black Empowerment: The Spencer-Warner Controversy and Alabama Reconstruction, 1868-1880". The Journal of Southern History. 64 (3): 473–494. doi:10.2307/2587791. JSTOR 2587791.
  7. ^ "Actress, Author, Wife: The Story of May Nunez". The Tennessean. Nashville, Tennessee. November 29, 1886. p. 2. Retrieved November 6, 2023 – via
  8. ^ "George Eliphaz Spencer". Encyclopedia of Alabama. Retrieved 2 July 2013.
  9. ^ "George Eliphaz Spencer". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved 2 July 2013.

External links[edit]

U.S. Senate
Preceded by
U.S. senator (Class 3) from Alabama
Served alongside: Willard Warner, George Goldthwaite, John T. Morgan
Succeeded by
Notes and references
1. Because Alabama seceded from the Union in 1861, seat was declared vacant from 1861 to 1868 when Benjamin Fitzpatrick withdrew from the U.S. Senate.