Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter grew up in Essex County, Virginia within a network of prominent Virginia families including the Mercers, Taliaferros, and Garnetts as well the Hunters. Robert received private tutoring before entering the University of Virginias first class in 1825. Hunter won election to Virginias House of Delegates in 1833, the Virginia Senate 1835, and established himself as leader of Calhouns supporters in the Old Dominion. In 1837, Hunter took further step up in political career by winning election to the US House of Representatives where he continued to support Calhoun. The appointment of James A. Seddon as new War Department Secretary provided Hunter with a conduit into cabinet deliberations. In July 1861, Jefferson Davis appointed Hunter to be Secretary of State to replace Robert Toombs, who had grown frustrated with the Davis government and sought military accolades in the field. Colonel L. Quinton Washington delivered an eloquent eulogy, Hunter-style, on behalf of this effort;, the attempt proved futile.