Son of Nathaniel Varnedoe of Liberty County. His second name was bestowed on him by his father in honor of Reverend William McWhir, headmaster of Sunbury Academy. He was tutored in his childhood by Alexander H. Stephens, who later became vice president of the Confederate States of America. He then attended Sunbury Academy. He graduated from Franklin College in Georgia in 1836. He was a school teacher at Jonesville for a number of years. He was a state representative for two terms. He and all the members of his family were members of Midway Church. In 1856, he was the nominee of the American Party for the U.S. Congress. He was defeated by James L. Seward of Thomasville, Georgia.
He relocated after the Civil War in Valdosta, Georgia, where he established Valdosta Institute. He was ordained a ruling elder in the Valdosta Presbyterian Church in 1866, and remained in that position until his death. His son, J.O. Varnedoe, was a prominent businessman, alderman, president of the Board of Trade, and mayor of Valdosta. The son was the first captain of the Valdosta Videttes, and became a colonel of the Fourth Georgia Regiment, of which the Valdosta Videttes was a part.
From "Sweet Land of Liberty, A History of Liberty County, Georgia" by Robert Long Groover; Appendix Number #, Page(s); Used by the permission of the Liberty County Commissioners Office