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08/17/2022 03:05 AM
Pennsylvania State Senate

Titian James Coffey


Session Office Position District Party
1957-1958 25 Republican
1959 21 Republican
1960 21 Republican
 Counties   Armstrong, Clarion, Indiana


1824 - 1897

First cousin of Senator and General Harry White/Titian J. Coffey, son of a leading physician of central Pennsylvania Dr. James and Margaretta (McConnell) Coffee, was born in Huntingdon, in that State, December 5th, 1824, was admitted to the bar at St. Louis, Missouri, in 1845, returned to Pennsylvania, where he settled and practiced law with success until 1861. He was active in the movement which founded and organized the Republican Party in Pennsylvania, and was elected to the State Senate in 1856. He served for three years in that body, and among other useful and important matters of legislation in which he had a leading part, he procured the enactment of the law establishing the normal school system of Pennsylvania, his report in favor of that measure being well known in connection with the literature of educational legislation. He was the first to introduce ana advocate the now generally accepted reform in the laws of evidence which allows parties to suits at law to be examined as witnesses. For professional reasons he declined a re-election to the Senate. He engaged actively in the canvass which resulted in the election of Mr. Lincoln, in 1860, to the Presidency, and, in March, 1861, was appointed Assistant Attorney-General of the United States. In this office, then very laborious because of the many important and difficult questions thrown upon the Attorney-General by the War of the Rebellion, and by the supervision imposed on that officer over the subordinate law officers of the Government, Mr. Coffey rendered faithful and effective service. Many of the most important opinions of the Attorney General given during those momentous times were written by him, and he had charge of the cases in the Supreme Court which involved not only large amounts of money, but many of the questions underlying the methods of effective prosecution of the war by blockade and capture at sea. He was the author of the opinion of the Attorney General which declared the right of men of color to receive full pay as officers of the volunteer forces in the army. This was the first official utterance of the Government which, in the then existing legislation of Congress, placed negroes in the armed service of the United States on a higher footing than laborers and teamsters, and the opinion having been called for by the United States Senate, on the motion of Mr. Sumner, led the way to the subsequent legislation which placed all soldiers fighting under the national flag on a common footing. Finding the joint labors of the office and the court room too severe, Mr. Coffey resigned his position in 1864, before the close of Mr. Lincoln's first term, and was placed by the Attorney General in charge of the Government cases in the Supreme Court, in which service he continued for two years, when he returned to private practice in that court. When Attorney General Bates resigned his office, after Mr. Lincoln's second election, he urged the choice of Mr. Coffey as his successor, in which he was sustained by many of the leading Republicans of Pennsylvania, but the President, recognizing the necessity of selecting a Cabinet member from the South, appointed Mr. James Speed of Kentucky. In 1869, as Mr. Coffey was preparing to visit Europe for a lengthened residence, he was appointed by Gen. Grant Secretary of Legation at St. Petersburg. He accepted the position, but resigned it in 1870. He traveled extensively in Europe, and returned to the United States and resumed his professional work in the Supreme Court at Washington in 1873. Senator Coffey died January 11, 1897.  His wife was Mary Kerr of Pittsburgh.