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6th Governor of
California, January 9-14, 1860

Born:  May 23, 1827, in Columbus, Ohio

Died:  March 4, 1882, in New York City

Marriage:  Sophie Birdsall (1863); Mary McMullin (1870), 1 son


Milton Latham was governor of California for only five days. He was the successful candidate to fill a vacant seat in the U.S. Senate, and chose that post over the governor’s position.


Early Life

Latham was born in Columbus, Ohio, where he lived until going to Jefferson College in Pennsylvania. After graduation from college, he worked in Alabama as a teacher, court clerk, and then a lawyer. He moved to California in 1850.



After a brief time working as a court clerk in San Francisco, Latham moved to Sacramento where he became district attorney. He was elected in 1852 to the U.S. House of Representatives where he worked for better overland mail service and a mail steamship service to Asia. After one term, he was appointed by President Pierce as collector of the port of San Francisco.



Latham was nominated for governor in 1859 by the Southern Democrats, and won easily over John Curry and Leland Stanford. He was just 32 years old at the time. In his inaugural address, Latham said he would make no promises but wait to list his accomplishments when he left office. The five days in office gave little time for accomplishments. He made appointments to several positions and signed five legislative bills. On January 11 the California legislature voted to fill a U.S. Senate seat vacated by the death of David C. Broderick. Latham, preferring to go to Washington, D.C., was the successful candidate for that position and left his post as governor.


Later Years

After one term in the U.S. Senate, Latham had a continuing role in California as the manager of the London and San Francisco Bank (often called “Latham’s Bank”) and an investor in railroads and Sacramento River/San Francisco Bay steamers. He became wealthy and built magnificent homes, which he filled with collections of books and art, in San Francisco and Menlo Park.

His later railroad investments brought financial loss, and Latham moved to New York in the late 1870s. There he served as president of the New York Mining and Stock Exchange. He died in New York City at the age of 55, and was buried in San Francisco.


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