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Isaac S. Pennybacker

Isaac Samuels Pennybacker
United States Senator
from Virginia
In office
December 3, 1845 – January 12, 1847
Preceded by William C. Rives
Succeeded by James M. Mason
Personal details
Born (1805-09-03)September 3, 1805
New Market, Virginia
Died January 12, 1847(1847-01-12) (aged 41)
Washington, D.C.
Political party Democratic

Isaac Samuels Pennybacker (September 3, 1805 – January 12, 1847) was an American lawyer, federal judge, and politician from Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Early life and education

Pennybacker was born at Pine Forge, near New Market, Shenandoah County, Virginia.

He attended Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) and the Winchester Law School, run by Henry St. George Tucker, Sr.. He was then in private practice in Harrisonburg, Virginia until 1837.

Political and judicial career

Pennybacker represented Virginia in the U.S. House from 1837-1839.

He was offered by President Martin Van Buren the office of Attorney General, but declined. Similarly, he declined a position as justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia, and would not accept the nomination of the Democratic party for Governor of Virginia.

On April 23, 1839, Pennybacker received a recess appointment from Van Buren to a seat on the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia the death of Alexander Caldwell. Formally nominated on January 29, 1840, Pennybacker was confirmed by the United States Senate on February 17, 1840, and received his commission the same day.

He resigned from his judgeship on December 6, 1845, and then served as United States Senator from Virginia from 1845-1847. James K. Polk named Pennybacker to the very first Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, a group which included Vice-President George M. Dallas, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, D.C. Mayor William W. Seaton, Senator Sidney Breese, Rep. William J. Hough, Rep. Robert Dale Owen, Rep. Henry W. Hilliard, Rufus Choate, Richard Rush, Dr. Benjamin Rush, William C. Preston, Alexander Dallas Bache, and Joseph G. Totten, among others, who met for the first time in September 1846.[1]

As judge, Pennybacker was succeeded by John White Brockenbrough. As Senator, he succeeded William Cabell Rives, whose brother Alexander Rives later served like Pennybacker as judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia. Pennybacker died at the age of 41 in Washington, D.C.. His Senate seat was filled by James Murray Mason.

Notes and references


  • biographic sketch at U.S. Congress website
  • Federal Judicial Center.
  • Hon. Armistead M. Dobie, "Federal District Judges in Virginia before the Civil War," 12 F.R.D. 451 (1951,1952) (viewed on Westlaw)
Preceded by
James M. H. Beale
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 16th congressional district

March 4, 1837 - March 4, 1839
Succeeded by
Green B. Samules
Preceded by
William C. Rives
United States Senator (Class 1) from Virginia
December 3, 1845 - January 12, 1847
Served alongside: William S. Archer
Succeeded by
James M. Mason

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