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Hilary A. Herbert

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Hilary A. Herbert

Hilary Abner Herbert
33rd United States Secretary of the Navy
In office
March 7, 1893 – March 4, 1897
Preceded by Benjamin F. Tracy
Succeeded by John D. Long
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Alabama's 2nd district
In office
March 4, 1877 – March 3, 1893
Preceded by Jeremiah Norman Williams
Succeeded by Jesse F. Stallings
Personal details
Born March 12, 1834
Laurens, South Carolina, USA
Died March 6, 1919(1919-03-06) (aged 84)
Tampa, Florida, USA
Political party Democratic
Alma mater University of Alabama
University of Virginia
Profession Politician, Lawyer
Military service
Allegiance Confederate States of America
Service/branch Confederate States Army
Rank Colonel
Battles/wars American Civil War

Hilary Abner Herbert (March 12, 1834 – March 6, 1919) was Secretary of the Navy under President Grover Cleveland. He also served as a member of the United States house of representatives from Alabama.


Herbert was born in Laurensville, South Carolina in 1834, and moved with his family to Greenville, Alabama in 1846. He was educated at the University of Alabama and the University of Virginia, where he was a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity (Eta chapter). He practiced law in Greenville until the Civil War.

Herbert entered the Confederate Army as a second lieutenant. He served as captain of the Greenville Guards, and was later promoted to the rank of colonel of the Eighth Regiment, Alabama Infantry. Herbert was wounded at the Battle of the Wilderness May 6, 1864.

Secretary Herbert meeting with Commander Robert Lees Phythian

After the war, Herbert returned to his law practice in Greenville, Alabama. He was elected to Congress in 1877 from Montgomery, Alabama as a Democrat. He served eight terms in this office. During his tenure as Congressman, Herbert was chairman of the Committee on Naval Affairs and was largely responsible for the increased appropriations which led to the revival of the American Navy. Herbert also became well known for leading a charge in Congress to reduce the funding of the United States Geological Survey, resulting in a public feud with paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh.

In 1893, President Grover Cleveland appointed Herbert as Secretary of the Navy. Herbert was able to muster support for an enlarged navy, despite the Depression of 1893, and brought the fleet to some level of preparedness for the Spanish–American War. From 1897, when he left his Cabinet seat, to his death on March 6, 1919, Herbert practiced law in Washington, D.C.


USS Herbert (DD-160) was named in honor of Secretary Herbert.

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