Samuel Lewis Southard (June 9, 1787-June 26, 1842) was a prominent U.S. statesman of the early 19th century, serving as a U.S. Senator, Secretary of the Navy, and Governor of New Jersey.
The son of Henry Southard and brother of Isaac Southard, he was born in Basking Ridge, New Jersey and graduated from Princeton University in 1804. After teaching school in New Jersey, he worked for several years as a tutor in Virginia and studied law there. Upon being admitted to the bar, he returned to New Jersey, where he was appointed law reporter by the New Jersey Legislature in 1814. Elected to the New Jersey General Assembly in 1815, Southard was appointed to the New Jersey Supreme Court shortly thereafter, and in 1820 served as a presidential elector. In 1821, he was chosen to fill the seat in the United States Senate vacated by the resignation of James J. Wilson, and served until March of 1823. During this time, he was a member of the committee that produced the Missouri Compromise.
President James Monroe selected Senator Southard to be Secretary of the Navy in September 1823, and he remained in office under President John Quincy Adams. During these years, he also served briefly as ad interim Secretary of the Treasury (1825) and Secretary of War (1828). Southard proved to be one of the most effective of the Navy's early Secretaries. He endeavored to enlarge the Navy and improve its administration, purchased land for the first Naval Hospitals, began construction of the first Navy dry docks, undertook surveys of U.S. coastal waters and promoted exploration in the Pacific Ocean. Responding to actions by influential officers, including David Porter, he reinforced the American tradition of civilian control over the military establishment. Also on Southard's watch, the Navy grew by some fifty percent in personnel and expenditures and expanded its reach into waters that had not previously seen an American man-of-war.
In 1829, after leaving his Navy post, Samuel Southard became Attorney General of New Jersey. After briefly serving as Governor of New Jersey in 1832-33, he re-entered the U.S. Senate. During the next decade, he was a leader of the Whig Party and a figure of national political importance. Failing health forced his resignation from the Senate in 1842. Samuel Southard died in Fredericksburg, Virginia on June 26 of that year.
The destroyer USS Southard (DD-207), (later DMS-10), 1919-1946, was named in his honor.