Wythe, George (1726-1806)

Virginia lawyer and statesman.

Practiced law in partnership with John Lewis (later Wythe’s brother-in-law) of Spotsylvania County. Moved to Williamsburg (c. 1754) and studied law independently. Member, House of Burgesses (1754-55, 1758-68). Mayor of Williamsburg (1768). Clerk of the House of Burgesses (1769-75). Friend of Virginia governor Francis Fauquier, William Small, and Thomas Jefferson. Served in Continental Congress (1775-76) and on various Virginia committees. Justice, Virginia High Court of Chancery (1778). Professor of law, College of William and Mary (the first law professor in the United States) (1779-90). Later opened a small law school of his own. Strongly influenced American legal education and jurisprudence.

Son of Thomas and Margaret (Walker) Wythe, planters of Elizabeth City County, Virginia. Had little formal education. Married (1) Ann Lewis (1747); no children;(2) Elizabeth Taliaferro (c. 1755); only child died in infancy. Died of arsenic poisoning; the poisoner, Wythe’s grand-nephew George Wythe Sweeney, was acquitted for lack of evidence