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Benton, Thomas Hart

Thomas Hart Benton (1782-1858) was expelled in March 1799 for stealing $54 from fellow students Marmaduke Baker, William Cherry, Fleming Saunders, and Thomas King (Faculty Minutes 1:9-18, UA). The students alerted local merchants to watch out for a rare Federal dollar "of the latest emission" and a shilling note with Baker's initials on it. Hugh Nunn, a clerk in Mr. Scott's store, spied the dollar in Benton's possession, and the students, walking with Benton to the country for breakfast, found the shilling note when they forcibly emptied his coat pockets. His widowed mother, Ann Gooch Benton, moved the family to Tennessee, where Benton eventually practiced law and entered politics, serving as a member of the Tennessee Senate in 1809. In 1815 he moved to Missouri, became editor of the St. Louis Enquirer from 1818 to 1820, and in 1821 was elected one of the state's first US senators, holding office until 1851. In 1852 he was elected to the US House of Representatives but was defeated in his reelection bid in 1854. His two-volume Thirty Years' View, completed in 1856, is an important history of American government during the period of his service in the US Senate (Dictionary of North Carolina Biography 1:139-42).