The Life, Times and Political Career of Levi Woodbury

with John P. McGee

Tuesday September 22
7 – 8:30 PM


Note: This program was previously scheduled for September 16 as part of the Portsmouth Athenaeum’s “2020 Program Series.” Due to COVID-19, the program has been rescheduled and moved to an online Zoom format. This presentation is co-hosted with the Portsmouth Public Library. Registration is required.

To register, click on the button below. The Zoom link will be sent the week of the event.

Levi Woodbury gained fame as both a Judge and a Politician. As a Judge, he was one of the youngest men, if not youngest, ever to be appointed to New Hampshire’s highest Court in 1816. Following his service on New Hampshire’s Court, he spent many years in politics until he was named by President Polk to the United States Supreme Court in 1845. New Hampshire has had no other United States Supreme Court Justice who was born in New Hampshire, practiced law in New Hampshire and was appointed from New Hampshire. While sitting on the Supreme Court, he actually campaigned for the Presidency and but for his death in 1851, most likely would have been elected President in 1852, that position going to his former clerk, Franklin Pierce.

The prime focus of the talk will not be Woodbury’s Judicial career, but rather his political career. How he became Governor; Speaker of the New Hampshire General Court; Untied States Senator; United States Secretary of the Navy; United States Secretary of the Treasury; a return to the United States Senate and then an appointment to the United States Supreme Court.

About the Presenter

Portsmouth Athenaeum Proprietor John “Jack” P. McGee Jr. was born and brought up in Portsmouth. He attended college at Yale University and received his B.A. in Economics. Following college, he married his high school sweetheart, Diane O’Leary, also of Portsmouth. He went to law school at the College of William and Mary, obtaining his J.D. degree in 1975.

Jack has always been interested in Portsmouth history as well as history in general. He became a member of the Portsmouth Historical Society at the age of 12 and at one time or another has been a member of all historical societies in Portsmouth save one (The Colonial Dames). He was a long-time officer of the Portsmouth Athenaeum as well as President. He has been Director of the Wentworth-Gardner Tobias Lear Houses Association and on the finance committee of Strawbery Banke.

Jack currently practices law in Portsmouth, under the firm name of Flynn & McGee, P.A., and among others, he is a member the New Hampshire Bar Association and the United States Supreme Court Bar. He has also argued many cases before the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

When he was young, Jack would often play with friends at a house across the street from the Levi Woodbury Mansion. By that point, the mansion was in a state of great disrepair and looked like something out of “Dark Shadows,” and the building was unfortunately torn down in 1960. While a sophomore at college, he read Arthur Schlesinger’s The Age of Jackson and could not believe how important Levi Woodbury was during that period. As a third-year law student, he wrote a major paper on Levi Woodbury, and since that time, he has lectured on Woodbury and of the times in which he lived, frequently.