From 1776 to 1792, the executive leader of Delaware was known as the President and was elected by the State General Assembly. After the ratification of the United States Constitution, Delaware developed its own new constitution that called for the popular election of a governor.
GEORGE READ was born on his family’s estate in Cecil County, Maryland on September 18, 1733. As a young boy, he completed his studies as the Academy of Reverend Francis Alison. In 1753, he was admitted to the bar at the age of nineteen and began to practice law. At the same time, he met and married Gertrude Ross Till, the daughter of a prominent local rector. They had four children together, and their daughter Mary would later marry Governor Gunning Bedford of Delaware. Read began his political career in 1765 after his election to the Assembly of the Lower Three Counties Upon Delaware, a post he kept until 1776. From 1775 to 1777, he served as a member of the Continental Congress. Notably, Read voted against the vote of independence on July 2, 1776, but nevertheless signed the Declaration of Independence. This made him palatable to both conservative and radical factions in Delaware, and later that summer he was chosen to be President of the 1776 Delaware State Constitutional Convention. Following that, he was named Speaker of the Delaware Senate, which made him second in line to the presidency (governorship). When Delaware President John McKinly was captured by the British, however, Read was in Philadelphia as a delegate to the Continental Congress. Thomas McKean thus served as president until Read returned in October 1777. Read then served until March 1778, but governance was difficult due to the continuation of the Revolutionary War and widespread insurrection in Delaware. Additionally, Read relied on his law practice for his income, and devoting time to the governorship weakened him financially. On March 31, 1778, he officially left office. He would later return to the Delaware State Senate in 1782 and then became a United States Senator after the United States Constitution was ratified in 1789. His final public post was serving as the Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court. George Read died on September 21, 1798 and is buried in Immanuel Episcopal Church Cemetery.