WILLIAM HENRY GIST was born in Charleston, South Carolina. He attended South Carolina College, where he later served as a trustee. Owner of "Rose Hill" plantation, he also studied law. He was a member of both the South Carolina House of Representatives and the South Carolina Senate from 1844 to 1856. Although elected Lieutenant Governor by the state legislature in 1848, he failed to qualify and therefore remained in the Senate. A strong supporter of secession, as governor he wrote to all cotton states except Texas to inform them of the likelihood of South Carolina's withdrawal from the Union and to request their cooperation. He also kept the state legislature in special session to await the outcome of the 1860 presidential election, proposing that a convention be called and the militia strengthened in the event of Abraham Lincoln's election. Gist left office the day that the Secession Convention convened and signed the Ordinance of Secession as a convention member. He was later appointed to the Executive Council, which superseded the state's regular government, and served as chief of the Department of Instruction and Manufacturers.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 12. New York: James T. White & Company.