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Gaston, William Joseph

William Joseph Gaston (1778-1844) was born in New Bern, NC, to Alexander Gaston, a native of Ireland, and Margaret Sharpe, a Roman Catholic who emigrated from England. His father died in the Revolutionary War in 1781. In 1791 Gaston was the first student to enroll at Georgetown College, but he left in 1793 because of ill health. He finished his education at the College of New Jersey (Princeton) at the age of eighteen and was admitted to the bar in 1798. A prominent Federalist, he was elected to the NC Senate in 1800, 1812, 1818, and 1819 and to the NC House of Commons in 1807, 1808, 1809, 1827, 1829, and 1831. In 1813 he won a seat in the US House of Representatives, where he expressed his opposition to the War of 1812. In 1833 the NC House of Commons elected him to the NC Supreme Court. Gaston owned slaves and a plantation in Craven County, NC, but as a delegate to the state's constitutional convention of 1835, he favored continued suffrage for free blacks and opposed religious tests for holding public office. He was a University trustee from 1802 until his death in 1844. Married three times—to Susan Hay, Hannah McClure, and Eliza Ann Worthington—he had a son and two daughters by his second wife and two daughters by his third wife (Dictionary of North Carolina Biography 2:283-85).