Born on May 10, 1792, in present-day Durham County, North Carolina, Willie Person Mangum grew up and studied in Hillsborough, Fayetteville, and Raleigh. Mangum attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and he graduated in 1815. After his graduation, Mangum studied law under Duncan Cameron while gaining admittance to the North Carolina bar several years later in 1817.
Willie Mangum practiced law for a short time before serving in the North Carolina House of Commons from 1818 until 1819. While a North Carolina representative, Mangum garnered western support while advocating constitutional reform. During his time in the House of Commons, Willie married Sarah Cain; the couple later raised five children. Mangum later served two terms as a superior court judge before entering national politics.
After his time as a representative in the General Assembly, Willie began his career in national politics as a Whig Party politician. Mangum served in the House of Representatives from 1823 until 1826, later to resign from Congress. However, Mangum reentered politics when he was elected as a Jacksonian in 1830. An opponent of the protective tariff, Mangum advocated state rights, and in 1833 he withdrew his support of the Force Bill. His opposition to the bill finalized his break with President Jackson’s policy initiatives, particularly regarding the Bank of the United States.
On November 26, 1836, Senator Mangum resigned from office because he did not want to become a voting pawn of the North Carolina legislature. Mangum disagreed with “the issue of whether state legislatures could instruct Senators on how to vote” (NC Highway Marker History). In 1836, Mangum ran in the presidential election, winning South Carolina’s electoral votes due to his political stance on state rights and nullification.
Although he was not elected president, Mangum was elected in 1840 to the U.S. Senate after Bedford Brown resigned from office. As a Whig delegate, Mangum served in the Senate until 1853, and he was President pro tempore during both the twenty-seventh and twenty-eighth Congresses. According to the U.S. Senate website, Mangum proved “an astute political leader, an effective debater, and a powerful campaigner with personal charm and magnetism.” Mangum lost reelection in 1853, and retired to his home town. Mangum passed away on September 7, 1861.