The first native of Tennessee to become governor, JAMES CHAMBERLAIN JONES was born in Wilson County. Engaging in farming for many years, he studied law but did not practice. Prior to running for governor, he served in the state legislature and was a Whig elector in the presidential campaign of 1840. Despite the fact that he was a relative unknown with limited experience running against a man considered to be an able statesman and shrewd campaigner, his folksy style helped him defeat then-incumbent Governor (later U.S. President) James Polk. His first term was stagnant due in part to sharp division in the state legislature between a Whig-controlled House and a Democratic-controlled Senate. During his second administration, however, the permanent capital of Tennessee was fixed at Nashville and institutions were established for the blind and deaf. After retiring as governor in 1845, Jones was a presidential elector-at-large for Whig candidates Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore and helped ensure a Whig victory in Tennessee in the presidential election of 1848. In 1851, Whig majorities in both the state House and state Senate helped secure Jones’s election to the U.S. Senate. In 1850, he became president of the planned Memphis and Charleston Railroad. He did not seek reelection to a second term in the Senate but instead devoted the final years of his life to railroad management. He died at his farm near Memphis and was buried in Memphis.
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