WILLIAM HENRY DENSON, United States District Attorney, was born in Russell County, Ala.. March 4, 1846. His parents, Augustus R. and Elizabeth (Ivey) Denson, were born, respectively, in Franklin County, N. C., in 1812, and Baldwin County, Ga., in 1819.
The senior Mr. Denson, a planter by occupation, took part in the War of 1836, going into the army from Alabama, whither he had moved in 1833. He lived in Russell County, this State, and there reared five sons and three daughters. The eldest son, John B., of Waddell's Artillery, was killed at Resaca, Ga.; Robert H. lives at Trenton, Mo.; N. D. is an attorney-at-law in Chambers County, this State; Augustus M., late sheriff of Etowah County, died in April, 1885; and the subject of this sketch, one of the leading attorneys of Alabama, will be treated of hereafter. The old gentleman was a son of John E. Denson, a Virginian, who moved into North Carolina at the beginning of the present century, and there married Frances Hill-Smau. He was a soldier in the War of 1812, and reared a large family of children.
The Densons came originally from England, and were Quakers. The first one that came to this country was William Denson. He settled in Westmoreland County, Va., and reared three sons; one of the sons settled in Maryland, another in Pennsylvania, and the third in North Carolina. They were farmers, and from them have descended many noble men and women, distinguished, some of them, in the history of the Church and of State. The Ivey family, from whom the subject of this sketch descends in the maternal line, came originally from Wales in the person of Barney Ivey. Barney married Alcey Davis, a native of Georgia, and lived to be ninety-one years of age. He died in November, 1856. He reared a large family of sons and daughters, all of whom it appears heeded well the injunction of the Bible in multiplying and replenishing the earth.
William Henry Denson spent the first seventeen years of his life on his father's farm, at the neighboring schools and at the University of Alabama. He entered the army in February, 1863, as a member of Waddell's Battalion of Artillery, and was in every battle from Dalton to Atlanta. In 1564 he was furloughed on account of his protracted sickness: rejoined his command at Macon, Ga., and remained to the close of the war. For the first year after the restoration of peace he turned his hand to farming, raised a crop, sold it, and with the proceeds, went to Columbus where, in the office with P. J. Moses, he began the study of law. He was admitted to the bar in February, 1867, but it appears did not enter the practice until 1870. In that year he hung out his shingle at LaFayette, Ala., and was at once recognized as a brilliant and successful attorney. In 1876 he was a member of the Legislature, where he served with marked ability on the Judiciary Committee, and as a member of the joint committee on the revision of the Code. After a trip West, he, in the fall of 1877, settled in Gadsden, were he has since remained, and where he unquestionably stands at the very head of his profession.
Colonel Denson is an active politician, an uncompromising Democrat, and serves his party with much zeal and distinguished effect. He was a Cleveland elector in 1884, and in June, 1885, was appointed United States District Attorney for the Northern and Middle Districts of Alabama. He is a Royal Arch Mason and a Knight of Pythias; is an active business man, live, energetic, wide-awake, broad-gauged, and belongs to the noble army of modern Southern men, now growing rap-idly famous for their energy and enterprise. As a public man, his record is without a blemish. Opposed to rings and monopolies of all kinds, he believes in a Government of the people, by the people, and for the people. With him jobbery, chicanery, scheming and pusillanimity finds no abiding place. nor has he any patience with any man, be he ever so great, who panders to such things and demagoguery in his efforts for political advancement. He has implicit faith in the intelligence and integrity of the people at large, and believes that the whole people should and must have a voice in the Government. In speaking of the people, it should be understood that Colonel Denson means the white people.
Physically, Colonel Denson is a broad-shouldered, heavy-set, rotund sort of a man; florid complexion, hair and beard slightly tinged with gray. Before a jury he is a powerful advocate: on the stump he is a forcible, logical and eloquent speaker; in conversation he is pleasing, cordial and entertaining. The publishers take pleasure in prefacing this article with the portrait of the gentleman as a mark of distinction and of their appreciation of his high merit as a citizen.
Colonel Denson was married December 21, 1868, to Rosa E. Cowan, a native of Eufaula, and daughter of Dr. William Cowan, one of the pioneers of that town, known first as Irwinton. Mrs. Denson's mother is a sister of the Hon. J. L. Pugh, United States Senator. Colonel and Mrs. Denson have five children: Annie L., Hugh C., William A., John and Lola E. The family are Presbyterians.
Source: McCalley, Henry, Northern Alabama : historical and biographical. Birmingham, AL: Smith & De Land, 1888, pp. 835