James L. Alcorn (November 4, 1816-December 19, 1894) was a prominent American political figure in Mississippi during the 19th century. Born in Livingston County, Kentucky and attending Cumberland College in that state, he served as deputy sheriff of Livingston County from 1839-1844. As his law practice flourished and his property holdings throughout the Mississippi Delta increased, he became a wealthy man. He was a member of the Whig party. He served in the state House of Representatives and Senate during the 1840s and 1850s. Like many Whig planters in Mississippi, Alcorn initially opposed secession but later cast his lot with the Confederacy. During the American Civil War, he rose to the rank of general in the Confederate Army by war's end. Both his sons, James Alcorn Jr. and Henry Alcorn, died during the war -- James Jr. in battle and Henry in Camp Chase of typhoid fever. He managed to maintain his wealth during the Civil War by illegally trading cotton with the North. After the war, he was estimated to be among the fifty wealthiest men in the New South.
Alcorn, a Republican later served, as Governor of Mississippi from 1870 to 1871, and resigned to become a U.S. Senator (1871-1877).
During the Reconstruction era, Alcorn was an advocate of modernizing the South. Although a believer in white supremacy, he supported civil and political rights for African-Americans. In a letter to his wife (Amelia Alcorn, nÃ©e Glover, of the Rosemount plantation in southern Alabama), he states that Southerners must make the Negro their friend or "the path ahead will be red with blood and damp with tears." Alcorn was also the founder of the Mississippi levee system, and was instrumental in their rebuilding after the Civil War.
After his retirement from politics, Alcorn lived quietly at his plantation, Eagle's Nest, in Coahoma County, Mississippi, surrounded by family until his death and interrment on the estate grounds in 1894.
Alcorn County, Mississippi is named in his honor.