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Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1965 historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, for African-American voter rights changed the South forever. (Or, did it?)
Few know that another King – William Rufus DeVane King – gave Selma its name 145 years earlier. (It means “high seat” or “throne,” and comes from an epic Ossianic poem, “The Songs of Selma.”)
Billy DeVane was the live-in companion – possible partner, advising spouse, subliminal lover – of James Buchanan, the 15th president of the United States.
Buchanan met Billy in 1834 while they were both serving in the Senate. They became inseparable for almost 20 years.
Gay historians say there’s a strong possibility that Buchanan may have broken his engagement to his fiancee Ann Coleman for the handsome, slightly older Billy. Poor Ann. She died brokenhearted shortly thereafter.
Buchanan referred to Billy’s friendship as a “communion.” Washington gossips called Billy Jamie Buchanan’s “better half,” and the two of them “the Siamese Twins.”
Former President Andrew Jackson dubbed Billy “Miss Nancy.” (Jackson’s own wife – a zesty, buxom tart of a thing – was also the subject of much malicious gossip.)
Democrat Aaron Brown confided in letters to his friends that Billy was “Aunt Fancy trigged in her best clothes.” He called Billy “she” and referenced to “her” telltale behavior and conversations. There’s hinting that Billy may have been a cross-dresser.
But Billy was also a highly respected politician, with 38 years of dedicated service in the House of Representatives, the Senate and as minister without portfolio (perhaps it was beaded) to France and to St. Petersburg, Russia.
It’s rumored at the time that Billy took the post in France to quash gossip about himself and Jamie Buchanan. Whether true or not, he did a splendid job of keeping the French from interfering in this country’s plans to annex Texas from Mexico. (Things might have been better for all parties concerned these Trump-mongered days if France had succeeded.)
In 1853, Billy became vice president to our 14th president, Franklin Pierce. Billy, who owned slaves, was chosen as a compromise candidate on a pro-slavery ticket. But before taking office he showed signs of tuberculosis, hastening to a friend’s plantation near Havana, Cuba, to recuperate and mint julep it up, and — mayhap, Mary — cross-dress in the sun.
For the only time in our history, a special act of Congress was passed to allow the king to take the oath of office outside of the U.S. But excessive drinking further weakened Billy’s constitution, and within six weeks of being sworn in he was dead. Jamie Buchanan was devastated.
In 1850, Buchanan without his beloved Billy, became our only bachelor president. His indecisiveness in office brought the Civil War closer. Lincoln inherited the conflict. (Gay historians think the young Lincoln was possibly bisexual.)
Billy is buried in a shady cemetery just outside Selma, a city remembered today for two Kings. And possibly a queen. Perhaps America’s first: J. Edgar Hoover notwithstanding.