Back to former Tennessee governors
Earl Buford Ellington

Gov. Earl Buford Ellington

  • January 19, 1959 - January 15, 1963
    January 16, 1967 - January 16, 1971
  • Democratic
  • June 27, 1907
  • Mississippi
  • Millsaps College
  • Married Catherine Cheek; two children
  • NGA Chair


EARL BUFORD ELLINGTON was born near Lexington, Mississippi, and studied religion at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi. He spent eight years as a salesman for International Harvester, bought a farm in 1942, and traveled the state for for the Farm Bureau Insurance System. In 1948 Ellington was elected to the state legislature, representing Marshall County. After Frank Clement was elected governor, Ellington became commissioner of agriculture, a position he held from 1953 to 1958. When Clement could not succeed himself as governor in 1958 Ellington ran and was elected. He served as Governor of Tennessee from 1959 to 1963. During his tenure, Governor Ellington chaired the Southern Governors Association from 1961 to 1962; served on the National Governors Association Executive Committee from 1961 to 1962 and from 1967 to 1968; and chaired the National Governors’ Association from 1968 to 1969. After his four-year term as governor, he sat out the 1962 race as required by the state constitution, and once again Frank Clement was elected governor. Ellington served as vice president of the Louisville-Nashville Railroad until he took a position in President Johnson’s civil rights program. He was reelected governor in 1966 and served from 1967 until 1971. Shortly after leaving the governor’s office, Ellington died while playing golf in Florida. He was buried in Lone Oak Cemetery in Lewisburg, Tennessee.


The Buford Ellington Collection

Governor Buford Ellington Papers (First Term, 1959-1963) at Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Governor Buford Ellington Papers (Second Term, 1967-1971) at Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Governors of the American States, Territories and Commonwealths, National Governors’ Association, 1970.

Langsdon, Phillip, Tennessee: A Political History.

Philips, Margaret I. The Governors of Tennessee. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Company, 2001.

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.

Tennessee State University

Recent Tennessee Governors