The son of Robert and Priscilla Whitaker Ransom, Matthew Whitaker Ransom (1826-1904) was born in Warren County, NC, where he attended Warrenton Academy before enrolling in the University in 1842. A member of the Philanthropic Society, he graduated in 1847. He practiced law in Warrenton, NC, and in 1852 was elected the state's attorney general. The following year he married Martha Anne Exum; they were the parents of eight children. Ransom served in the NC General Assembly from 1858 to 1861, when he entered the Confederate army as a private. Wounded three times, he rose to the rank of brigadier general. After the war Ransom resumed his law practice. From 1872 to 1895 he served in the US Senate. Then President Grover Cleveland appointed him minister to Mexico for two years. Ransom retired to his wife's plantation on the Roanoke River and died on his seventy-eighth birthday (Dictionary of North Carolina Biography 5:175).