George Hunt Pendleton (July 19, 1825 – November 24, 1889) was a Representative and a Senator from Ohio. Nicknamed "Gentleman George" for his demeanor, he was the Democratic nominee for Vice President of the United States during the Civil War in 1864, running as a peace Democrat with war Democrat George B. McClellan; they lost to Abraham Lincoln. He is best known as the principal author of the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883
Pendleton was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was the son of Nathanael Greene Pendleton and attended the local schools and Cincinnati College and the University of Heidelberg in Germany. Pendleton studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1847 and commenced practice in Cincinnati.
He was a member of the Ohio Senate from 1854 to 1856. In 1854 he ran unsuccessfully for the Thirty-fourth United States Congress. Three years later he was elected as a Democrat to the Thirty-fifth Congress and also succeeded in being reelected to the three following Congresses (March 4, 1857 to March 3, 1865), but in 1864 he failed to be elected to the Thirty-ninth Congress. Pendleton was a noted antiwar Democrat.
He was one of the managers appointed by the House of Representatives in 1862 to conduct the impeachment proceedings against West H. Humphreys, United States judge for several districts of Tennessee. He was a leader of the peace faction of the Democratic party, with close ties to the Copperheads. He ran in the 1864 U.S. presidential elections for Vice President, together with George McClellan. Their opponents were Abraham Lincoln (President) and Andrew Johnson (nominee for Vice President). McClellan and Pendleton lost, receiving about 45% of the vote.
In 1869 he became president of the Kentucky Central Railroad and kept this position until he was elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate in 1879. He served six years in the Senate from March 4, 1879, to March 3, 1885, but was unsuccessful in winning renomination. During this time, he sponsored the Pendleton Act of 1883 in response to the assassination of President James A. Garfield by Charles Guiteau. The Act helped put an end to the system of patronage that was in widespread use at the time.
From 1881 to 1885 he was Chairman of the Democratic Conference. He was appointed Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Germany in 1885, and served until his death in Brussels, Belgium. He is interred in Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati, Ohio.