EDWARD ASBURY O’NEAL, Alabama’s 26th governor, was born in Madison County, Alabama Territory, on September 20, 1818. He was educated at Green Academy, and graduated from LaGrange College in 1836. O’Neal studied law with James W. McClung of Huntsville, was admitted to the bar in 1840, and started a law practice in Florence, Alabama. He was appointed solicitor of the fourth judicial circuit in 1841, serving four years. O’Neal, an advocate of the secession movement, joined the confederate army, as captain, on June 4, 1861. He was promoted to major, lieutenant colonel, colonel, and served as acting brigadier general at the close of the war. He returned to Florence, Alabama, after the war and resumed his law career. O’Neal entered politics in 1875 when he was elected as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, chairing the committee on education. O’Neal was elected Governor of Alabama on August 7, 1882, and was sworn into office on December 1, 1882. He was reelected to a second term on August 4, 1884. During his two terms, O’Neal focused on the reduction of taxes, prison reform, and aid to education. A Board of Convict Inspectors was created, a State Board of Agriculture was organized, appropriations were increased for public schools, and Congress granted additional land to the University of Alabama. O’Neal’s administration was marred by the discovery that the treasurer of his predecessor’s administration stole state funds. As a result, O’Neal established the office of Examiner of Accounts, and began a strong campaign to bring accountability to tax collectors. O’Neal left office on December 1, 1886, returned to Florence, Alabama, and died on November 7, 1890. He is buried at the City Cemetery, Florence, Alabama. He is the father of Alabama Governor Emmet O’Neal (1911-1915)
Alabama Department of Archives and History
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.