Memminger was born in Germany. His father died soon after his birth and his mother and grandparents emigrated to the USA soon afterwards. He was orphaned by a yellow fever epidemic in South Carolina when he was four and placed in the Charleston [South Carolina] Orphan House.
When he was nine he was adopted by Thomas Bennett, Jr., later governor of the state, who was also the father of Washington Jefferson Bennett, the adoptive father of Andrew Buist Murray. Memminger was a lawyer and became a member of the South Carolina state legislature, 1836-52 and 1854-60. In 1854 he reorganized the state's educational system. During the Civil War he served as a delegate to the Confederate Provisional Congress, 1861-62, was mainly responsible for writing the constitution of the Confederate States of America, and was Confederate secretary of the treasury, 1861-64. In 1867 he retired from politics and return to his law practice.
He was also one of the founders of the public school system in Charleston, South Carolina.
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