William Wirt – 1772-1834
Wirt first came to national prominence as the prosecutor in Aaron Burr’s 1807 trial for treason, and in 1817 President James Monroe named him attorney general. He served for 12 years, through the administration of President John Quincy Adams, and permanently transformed the position into a powerful one by identifying and prosecuting important cases for the government. Wirt was also an author of note, publishing in 1817 The Life and Character of Patrick Henry, which published for the first time many of Henry’s most famous speeches. Some believe that Henry’s ringing “Give me liberty or give me death!” speech was actually invented by Wirt for his book.