First man to realize the
"Union County Meteorite" was a meteorite!
Thomas Lanier Clingman
July 27, 1812 – November 3, 1897
Thomas Lanier Clingman is the first man to realize the "Union County Meteorite" was a meteorite. He also described the "Passage of the Great Meteor of 1860" that was seen over the eastern United States.
He is best known in North Carolina for his work mapping and recording some of the highest peaks in the area. He became infamous for his feud with geologist Elisha Mitchell; both men’s names have been given to the peaks they claimed were tallest. Clingman also discovered local sources of zirconia, mica, rubies, and gems, all of which became large mining industries of the day.
Clingman, known as the "Prince of Politicians," was a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives from 1843 to 1845 and from 1847 to 1858, and U.S. senator from the state of North Carolina between 1858 and 1861. During the Civil War he refused to resign his Senate seat and was one of ten senators expelled from the Senate in absentia. He then served as a general in the Confederate States Army.
Clingman was born in Huntsville, a small community in present day Yadkin County, North Carolina. His parents were Jacob and Jane Poindexter Clingman. He was educated by private tutors and in the public schools in Iredell County, NC. Clingman graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1832. He then studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1834 and began practice in Huntsville.
In 1847 he regained the seat and won reelection in 1849, 1851, 1853, 1855 and 1857. On May 7, 1858, he resigned after becoming a United States Senator as a Democrat the previous day, replacing the resigning Asa Biggs. He was reelected but was expelled from the Senate for support of the rebellion.
When he first entered the War, Clingman was the commander of the 25th North Carolina Infantry and took part in the Peninsula Campaign. He later commanded a brigade of infantry. Clingman's Brigade consisted of the 8th, 31st, 51st and 61st North Carolina Infantry. Clingman's Brigade fought at Goldsboro, Battery Wagner, Drewry's Bluff, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Globe Tavern, Fort Fisher and Bentonville.
After the Civil War, Clingman explored and measured mountains in western North Carolina and Tennessee. Tennessee's highest mountain, also partly in North Carolina, was named Clingman's Dome in his honor. He died in Morganton, North Carolina and was buried in the Riverside Cemetery in Asheville, North Carolina.