William Laurence Saunders was born in Raleigh in 1835. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he involved himself in editing for the university magazine. During his time at the university he often visited the Cotten family in Raleigh, and eventually married Florida Cotten in 1864. A Confederate veteran, he later became the leader of the Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina. He worked closely with his lifelong friend and brother-in-law James Engelhard as editor of the Democratic newspaper Wilmington Journal and was elected Secretary of State after Engelhard's death. He died in 1891 and was buried in Tarboro.
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