ASHBEL P. WILLARD, Indiana’s eleventh governor, was born in Vernon, New York, on October 31, 1820. In 1842, he graduated from Hamilton College, and then went on to study law. He moved several times, migrating to Michigan, Texas, and Kentucky, finally settling in New Albany, Indiana, where he established a legal practice. Willard entered politics in 1850, serving as a member to the Indiana House of Representatives, a position he held until 1851. He also served as lieutenant governor of Indiana form 1853 to 1857. Willard won the 1856 Democratic gubernatorial nomination and was elected to the Indiana governorship. During his tenure, difficulties were encountered when the legislature disregarded state issues, especially the mounting governmental expenses. In an effort to save the state’s credit, Willard was compelled to take a loan in order to pay the interest on the state’s outstanding debt. Governor Willard encountered health problems and went to Minnesota to restore his health, but passed away shortly after arriving. He died on October 4, 1860, becoming the first governor to die in office. Governor Ashbel P. Willard was buried at the Fairview Cemetery in New Albany, Indiana.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 1, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.