Richard Olney was born in Oxford, Worcester County, Massachusetts, on September 15, 1835. He prepared for college at Leicester Academy in Worcester County, graduated from Brown University in 1856, and received the degree of LL.B. from Harvard Law School in 1858. Olney was admitted to the bar in 1859 and entered the office of Honorable Benjamin F. Thomas of Boston. He served as a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1874. On March 6, 1893, President Cleveland appointed him Attorney General of the United States. On June 8, 1895, Olney was appointed Secretary of State to fill the vacancy created by the death of Secretary Walter Q. Gresham. He took the oath of office on June 10, 1895. Olney died on April 8, 1917 in Boston, Massachusetts.