Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar was born on September 17, 1825, in Eatonon, Georgia. He and his family moved to Covington, Georgia following his fathers suicide. In 1841, Lamar graduated from the Georgia Conference Manual Labor School. Continuing his education at Emory College, he found a mentor in college president, Reverend Augustus B. Longstreet. Two years after his 1845 graduation, Lamar married Longstreets daughter, Virginia, and the couple eventually had four children. Lamar studied law in his uncles firm, then returned to Covington to begin his practice.
In 1849, Lamar became a teacher of mathematics at the University of Mississippi, in Oxford, having been hired by the schools new president, his father-in-law Rev. Longstreet. In Mississippi, Lamar substituted for Sen. Jefferson Davis at a public debate dealing with the Compromise of 1850, and his skilled performance helped promote his political reputation. After his return to Covington, he son a seat in the Georgia legislature as a Democrat. In 1855, after his failure to win the Democratic nomination to Congress, he moved to Mississippi, bought a plantation and a large number of slaves, and decided to withdraw from public life. A year later, however, he ran for the US House of Representatives and won. A strong supporter of states rights and southern sectionalism, he became close to Jefferson Davis. He withdrew from politics again in 1861, accepting a teaching position at the University of Mississippi.
During the Civil War, Lamar served as a lieutenant colonel of the Nineteenth Mississippi Regiment, but had to withdraw from combat because of bought of apoplexy, which had plagued his from childhood. He was appointed special commissioner to Russia to seek diplomatic recognition for the Confederacy, but he never made it to Russia, expending his diplomatic efforts instead in England and France. After his return in 1863, he served as an aide to Jefferson Davis and a judge advocate for the army of Northern Virginia.
Having lost much of his family, friends and property in the war, and being disqualified from holding public office, Lamar returned to the University of Mississippi as a professor of ethics and metaphysics, then law. In 1870, when some of his political enemies gained power on the universitys governing board, Lamar resigned from the faculty and focused on his legal practice. The House of Representatives granted him a special pardon, which enabled him to run and win a seat in Congress in 1872 as a Democrat. After delivering an eloquent speech in memory of Radical Republican leader Senator Charles Sumner in 1874, he was praised for his spirit of reconciliation and was acclaimed "the great pacificator." He was elected to the US Senate in 1876, and was reelected in 1881. In 1885, President Grover Cleveland appointed Lamar Secretary of the Interior. In 1887, the same year in which the Lamar, who had become a widower, married Henrietta Dean Holt, he was nominated to the Supreme Court. Lamar was the first Democrat to be appointed after the Civil War, and was confirmed in January of 1888 by a close vote.
Lamar spent five years on the Court. His declining health made the position a tremendous challenge, but he was nevertheless able to keep up with the caseload. Lamar died in Macon, Georgia on January 23, 1893, after a series of apoplectic strokes.