Who is Francis Scott Key?

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Written By Drew Gomez






Francis Scott Key (August 1, 1779 – January 11, 1843) was an American lawyer, author, and amateur poet from Frederick, Maryland. He is best known as the author of the text of the U.S. national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner”.

Early Life and Education

Key was born into an affluent family and grew up on a plantation called Terra Rubra in Frederick County, Maryland. His family was prominent, with members serving as lawyers and elected officials. Key pursued a legal career, following in the footsteps of his family.

The Star-Spangled Banner

During the War of 1812, Key witnessed the British bombardment of Fort McHenry and was inspired upon seeing the American flag still flying over the fort at dawn. He wrote the poem “Defence of Fort M’Henry,” which was later set to the tune of a popular song and became known as “The Star-Spangled Banner” — eventually being adopted as the national anthem.

Legal Career

Key was a well-established lawyer in Maryland and Washington, D.C. He worked on important cases, including the Burr conspiracy trial, and argued numerous times before the Supreme Court. He was nominated for District Attorney for the District of Columbia by President Andrew Jackson, serving from 1833 to 1841.


Despite his patriotic contributions, Key’s legacy is complex. He owned slaves and was a leader of the American Colonization Society, which sent former slaves to Africa. He also suppressed abolitionists and represented owners of runaway slaves.

Legacy and Recent Developments

Key’s legacy extends beyond his famous anthem. The Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, named after him, recently collapsed after being struck by a cargo ship, prompting a massive emergency response.


Key’s lifestyle was that of a well-to-do lawyer and family man. He was known for his strong religious faith and was deeply involved in his community and church.


Francis Scott Key was born on August 1, 1779, and passed away on January 11, 1843, at the age of 63.


Key was educated at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, where he graduated in 1796. He then read law with Judge Jeremiah Townley Chase and passed the bar in 1801.


Key was born into an affluent family and had a comfortable upbringing. His family’s status provided him with the opportunities that helped shape his future career as a lawyer and writer.

List of Achievements

  • Writing the poem “Defence of Fort M’Henry,” which would later be set to music and become “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
  • Serving as the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia from 1833 to 1841.

List of Challenges

  • Key faced criticism for his ownership of slaves and his stance on slavery, which was seen as contradictory to the values expressed in the national anthem.
  • He was involved in the controversial trial of Reuben Crandall, where he prosecuted Crandall for possessing abolitionist literature.

Social Media Activity

As Key lived in the 19th century, he did not engage in social media activity.


Key was married to Mary Tayloe Lloyd, and they had eleven children. His family life was typical of the era, with a focus on domestic responsibilities and raising his children.

Social Life

Key’s social life revolved around his legal career, his church activities, and his role as a family man.


Key’s father was John Ross Key, a lawyer, a commissioned officer in the Continental Army, and a judge. His mother was Ann Phoebe Dagworthy Charlton.

Relationship Status Key was married to Mary Tayloe Lloyd until his death.


Francis Scott Key’s legacy is a complex one. While he is celebrated for penning the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” his life and career also reflect the contradictions and moral complexities of early America, particularly regarding the issue of slavery. His contributions to American culture and law remain significant, and his influence continues to be felt today.

Francis Scott Key’s life was marked by his contributions to American culture and his complex stance on slavery. His legacy continues to be remembered and discussed, particularly in light of recent events involving the bridge that bears his name.

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