North Carolina Governors

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North Carolina Governors

North Carolina's history as an organized governing system led by a governor may be viewed in five chronological stages: the Virginia colony, the southern plantation, the Lords Proprietors, the Royal colony, and the state of North Carolina. A chronology of governors serving during each of these stages is listed at the bottom of the page.  

The Virginia Colony

In the sixteenth century the nations of Europe began a period of exploration and colonization in the "New World." England sought to maintain her interests in the struggle for new territories and resources among other contending nations, principally Spain. Queen Elizabeth commissioned Sir Walter Raleigh to establish a settlement in the "New World" to secure England's claims to territory. This new colony was named "Virginia" in honor of Queen Elizabeth, the virgin queen. The territory of that original colony included what is now North Carolina as well as many other States.

The Southern Plantation

After the mysterious disappearance of the "Lost Colony," the first successful English settlement was made at Jamestown. From Jamestown, settlement spread south. Eventually a distinction began to be made by the colonists between Virginia, the Chesapeake Bay area, and Old Virginia or South Virginia, the Roanoke Island area. When the latter area, now a part of North Carolina, became more settled it became known as the Southern Plantation. A "Commander of the Southern Plantation" was created by the governor of Virginia. The actions of the Virginia governor outpaced his authority under the English Crown, and the Southern Plantation and its Commander were short-lived.

The Lords Proprietors

The Stuarts succeeded Queen Elizabeth as monarchs of Britain. Charles I was beheaded in 1649 and Oliver Cromwell ruled during the "interregnum." Charles II returned the Stuarts to the throne in 1660 and rewarded his loyal supporters. Eight of these loyalists (Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon; George Monck, Duke of Albemarle; William Craven, Earl of Craven; John Lord Berkeley; Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury; Sir George Carteret; Sir William Berkeley, Governor of Virginia; and Sir John Colleton) were rewarded by King Charles II by being made Proprietors of his new colony, Carolina, which reached from the southern boundary of Virginia, incorporating the Southern Plantation, to the northern boundary of the Spanish colony of Florida. The western boundary of Carolina was to be the "South Seas."

The Royal Colony

The Proprietors had difficulty in managing the colony. There were border disputes with Virginia, Indian wars with the Tuscarora, and piracy at the hands of the notorious Blackbeard. A portion of Carolina had emerged as its own organizational unit and became the royal colony of South Carolina in 1719. Advisers to the British king recommended direct royal control of the colonies. In 1729 seven of the eight Lord Proprietors sold their colonial holdings in Carolina to the Crown. The lone Proprietor was John Carteret, Earl Granville, who retained the Granville Tract in North Carolina without governing control until the American Revolution.  

The State of North Carolina

Under the rule of the king, dissent within North Carolina grew. The Regulators rose in the western parts of the state protesting corrupt colonial government. The ladies of Edenton signaled their resolve to support the American cause in what has become known as the Edenton Tea Party. The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence in 1775 (now generally considered spurious, but representative of the dissatisfaction with royal government) signified that the people of the western areas of the colony supported a separation from royal control. On July 15, 1775, Josiah Martin, pursued by North Carolina patriots, fled from Fort Johnston with his family to the protection of the British warship, Cruizer. He was to be the last royal governor of North Carolina.

From 1776 until the constitutional convention of 1835, North Carolina's governors were chosen by the General Assembly. After 1835, governors were elected by popular vote for two year terms, and could be re-elected for another two years. When North Carolina was readmitted to the Union in 1868, the state's new Constitution allowed for direct election of the governor for a single four year term. This remained true until 1977, when the 1971 Constitution was amended to allow a sitting governor to stand for re-election.

Chronology of North Carolina Governors

Original Virginia Colony

Ralph Lane, 1585 - 1586
John White, 1587

Commander of the Southern Plantation

Samuel Stephens, 1662 - 1664 (later governor under Lords Proprietors)

Lords Proprietors

[Note: knowing who the governor of the colony was during this period is complicated. Men appointed to the Governorship were often residents of England, which meant a long and difficult sea voyage--a voyage which some, in fact, never made. Often the President of the Council or Speaker of the Assembly acted as governor in the absence of a chief executive, and once or twice active rebellion broke out between rival factions. For this reason, there is no easy chronology to follow--readers will note that dates often overlap, or that the same names appear multiple times. For further information, readers might want to consult William S. Powell's Dictionary of North Carolina Biography. Also of interest is the article "The Governorship of Albemarle County, 1663 - 1689," by Lindsey Butler (North Carolina Historical Review, 46 (1969): 281 - 299.)]

William Drummond, 1664 - 1667
Samuel Stephens, 1667 - 1669 (previously Commander of the Southern Plantation)
Peter Carteret, 1670 - 1672
John Jenkins, 1672 - 1675
Thomas Eastchurch, 1675 - 1676
John Jenkins, 1676 - 1677
Thomas Miller, 1677
John Harvey, 1679
Henry Wilkinson, 1680
John Jenkins, 1680 - 1681
Seth Sothel, 1682 - 1689
John Archdale, 1683 - 1686
John Gibbs, 1689 - 1690
Thomas Jarvis, 1690 - 1694
Philip Ludwell, 1690 - 1691, 1692 - 1693, 1693 - 1695
Thomas Harvey, 1694 - 1699
John Archdale, 1695 - 1696
Henderson Walker, 1699 - 1703
Robert Daniel, 1703 - 1705
Thomas Cary, 1705 - 1711
William Glover, 1706 - 1710
Edward Hyde, 1711 - 1712
Thomas Pollock, 1712 - 1714
Charles Eden, 1714 - 1722
Thomas Pollock, 1722
William Reed, 1722 - 1724
George Burrington, 1724 - 1725 (later royal governor)
Richard Everard, 1725 - 1731

Royal Governors

George Burrington, 1731 - 1734 (previously governor under the Lords Proprietors)
Nathaniel Rice, 1734
Gabriel Johnston, 1734 - 1752
Nathaniel Rice, 1752 - 1753
Matthew Rowan, 1753 - 1754
Arthur Dobbs, 1753 - 1763
William Tryon, 1765 - 1771
James Hasell, 1771
Josiah Martin, 1771 - 1775

Governors of the State of North Carolina

Richard Caswell, 1776 - 1780 (first of two terms)
Abner Nash, 1780 - 1781
Thomas Burke, 1781 - 1782
Alexander Martin, 1782 - 1785 (first of two terms)
Richard Caswell, 1784 - 1787 (second of two terms)
Samuel Johnston, 1787 - 1789
Alexander Martin, 1789 - 1792 (second of two terms)
Richard Dobbs Spaight, Sr., 1792 - 1795
Samuel Ashe, 1795 - 1798
William Richardson Davie, 1798 - 1799
Benjamin Williams, 1799 - 1802 (first of two terms)
James Turner, 1802 - 1805
Nathaniel Alexander, 1805 - 1807
Benjamin Williams, 1807 - 1808 (second of two terms)
David Stone, 1808 - 1810
Benjamin Smith, 1810 - 1811
William Hawkins, 1811 - 1814
William Miller, 1814 - 1817
John Branch, 1817 - 1820
Jesse Franklin, 1820 - 1821
Gabriel Holmes, 1821 - 1824
Hutchins Gordon Burton, 1824 - 1827
James Iredell, Jr., 1827 - 1828
John Owen, 1828 - 1830
Montford Stokes, 1830 - 1832
David Lowry Swain, 1832 - 1835
Richard Dobbs Spaight, Jr., 1835 - 1836
Edward Bishop Dudley, 1836 - 1841
John Motley Morehead, 1841 - 1845
William Alexander Graham, 1845 - 1849
Charles Manly, 1849 - 1850
David Settle Reid, 1851 - 1854
Warren Winslow, 1854 - 1855
Thomas Bragg, 1855 - 1859
John Willis Ellis, 1859 - 1861
Henry Toole Clark, 1861 - 1862
Zebulon Baird Vance
, 1862 - 1865 (first of two terms)
William Woods Holden, 1865 (first of two terms)
Jonathan Worth, 1865 - 1868
William Woods Holden, 1868 - 1870
Tod Robinson Caldwell, 1870 - 1874
Curtis Hooks Brogden, 1874 - 1877
Zebulon Baird Vance
, 1877 - 1879 (second of two terms)
Thomas Jordan Jarvis, 1879 - 1885
Alfred Moore Scales, 1885 - 1889
Daniel Gould Fowle, 1889 - 1891
Thomas Michael Holt, 1891 - 1893

Elias Carr, 1893 - 1897
Daniel Lindsay Russell, 1897 - 1901
Charles Brantley Aycock, 1901 - 1905
Robert Broadnax Glenn, 1905 - 1909
William Walton Kitchin, 1909 - 1913
Locke Craig, 1913 - 1917
Thomas Walter Bickett, 1917 - 1921
Cameron Morrison, 1921 - 1925
Angus Wilton McLean, 1925 - 1929
Oliver Max Gardner, 1929 - 1933
John Christoph Blucher Ehringhaus, 1933 - 1937
Clyde Roark Hoey, 1937 - 1941
Joseph Melville Broughton, 1941 - 1945
Robert Gregg Cherry, 1945 - 1949
William Kerr Scott, 1949 - 1953
William Bradley Umstead, 1953 - 1954
Luther Hartwell Hodges, 1954 - 1961
Terry Sanford, 1961 - 1965
Dan Killian Moore, 1965 - 1969
Robert Walter Scott, 1969 - 1973
James Eubert Holshouser, Jr., 1973 - 1977
James Baxter Hunt, Jr., 1977 - 1985 (first of two terms)
James Grubbs Martin, 1985 - 1993
James Baxter Hunt, Jr., 1993 - 2001 (second of two terms)
Michael F. Easley, 2001 - 2009
Beverly Perdue, 2009 - present

Sources: North Carolina government, 1585-1979 : a narrative and statistical history, published by the NC Department of the Secretary of State, and supplemented by members of the Information Services Branch of the State Library of North Carolina.

Recommended Reading: The Tar Heel State: A History of North Carolina (Hardcover). Description: The Tar Heel State: A History of North Carolina constitutes the most comprehensive and inclusive single-volume chronicle of the state’s storied past to date, culminating with an attentive look at recent events that have transformed North Carolina into a southern megastate. Integrating tales of famous pioneers, statesmen, soldiers, farmers, captains of industry, activists, and community leaders with more marginalized voices, including those of Native Americans, African Americans, and women, Milton Ready gives readers a view of North Carolina that encompasses perspectives and personalities from the coast, "tobacco road," the Piedmont, and the mountains in this sweeping history of the Tar Heel State. The first such volume in more than two decades, Ready’s work offers a distinctive view of the state’s history built from myriad stories and episodes. The Tar Heel State is enhanced by one hundred and ninety illustrations and five maps. Continued below...

Ready begins with a study of the state’s geography and then invites readers to revisit dramatic struggles of the American Revolution and Civil War, the early history of Cherokees, the impact of slavery as an institution, the rise of industrial mills, and the changes wrought by modern information-based technologies since 1970. Mixing spirited anecdotes and illustrative statistics, Ready describes the rich Native American culture found by John White in 1585, the chartered chaos of North Carolina’s proprietary settlement, and the chronic distrust of government that grew out of settlement patterns and the colony’s early political economy. He challenges the perception of relaxed intellectualism attributed to the "Rip van Winkle" state, the notion that slavery was a relatively benign institution in North Carolina, and the commonly accepted interpretation of Reconstruction in the state. Ready also discusses how the woman suffrage movement pushed North Carolina into a hesitant twentieth-century progressivism. In perhaps his most significant contribution to North Carolina’s historical record, Ready continues his narrative past the benchmark of World War II and into the twenty-first century. From the civil rights struggle to the building of research triangles, triads, and parks, Ready recounts the events that have fueled North Carolina’s accelerated development in recent years and the many challenges that have accompanied such rapid growth, especially those of population change and environmental degradation.

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Recommended Reading: Encyclopedia of North Carolina (Hardcover) (1328 pages) (The University of North Carolina Press), Description: The first single-volume reference to the events, institutions, and cultural forces that have defined the state, the Encyclopedia of North Carolina is a landmark publication that will serve those who love and live in North Carolina for generations to come. Editor William S. Powell, whom the Raleigh News & Observer described as a "living repository of information on all things North Carolinian," spent fifteen years developing this volume. With contributions by more than 550 volunteer writers—including scholars, librarians, journalists, and many others—it is a true "people's encyclopedia" of North Carolina. Continued below...

The volume includes more than 2,000 entries, presented alphabetically, consisting of longer essays on major subjects, briefer entries, and short summaries and definitions. Most entries include suggestions for further reading. Centered on history and the humanities, topics covered include agriculture; arts and architecture; business and industry; the Civil War; culture and customs; education; geography; geology, mining, and archaeology; government, politics, and law; media; medicine, science, and technology; military history; natural environment; organizations, clubs, and foundations; people, languages, and immigration; places and historic preservation; precolonial and colonial history; recreation and tourism; religion; and transportation. An informative and engaging compendium, the Encyclopedia of North Carolina is abundantly illustrated with 400 photographs and maps. It is both a celebration and a gift—from the citizens of North Carolina, to the citizens of North Carolina. "Truly an exhaustive and exciting view of every aspect of the Old North State!”

List of North Carolina Governors, North Carolina’s Governors History, North Carolina Governor Facts, Details, Who is the current Governor of North Carolina? NC Governor Photo, Photos, Picture, Pictures

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