James Speed was born in Jefferson County, Kentucky, on March 11, 1812. He graduated from St. Joseph's College in Kentucky, studied law at Transylvania University and was admitted to the bar at Louisville in 1833. In 1847 Speed was elected to the State legislature, and in 1861 elected to the State senate. On December 2, 1864, President Lincoln appointed him Attorney General of the United States. He resigned in July 1866 and resumed the practice of his profession. Speed was a delegate to the Philadelphia "Loyalists' Convention" in 1866 and served as president of the Convention. He died in Jefferson County, Kentucky, on June 25, 1887.
Healy was born in Boston where he began his artistic career at seventeen. He became internationally known and was patronized by the royal families of England and France. From 1844 to 1867, Healy filled innumerable commissions in the District of Columbia and along the eastern seaboard. After the Civil War he traveled to Europe, but returned finally to the United States in 1892 and died in Chicago two years later. He was one of the most successful 19th century portrait painters and was the subject of three books, including his own, Reminiscences of a Portrait Painter. Healy's portrait of Attorney General Speed was painted in 1865.