Back to former Rhode Island governors
James Youngs Smith
Rhode Island

Gov. James Youngs Smith

  • May 26, 1863 - May 29, 1866
  • Republican
  • September 15, 1809
  • March 26, 1876
  • Connecticut
  • Married Emily Brown; three children


Born in Groton, Connecticut, JAMES YOUNGS SMITH was a descendent on his mother’s side of John and Priscilla Alden. He had become the manager of a country store in Salem, Connecticut by the time he was sixteen. The following year, he moved to Providence to work for a lumber business, of which he became sole proprietor a decade later. He sold the business to partner with his brother in a firm specializing in wholesale merchandise, and the Smiths bought mills in both Connecticut and Rhode Island. Ultimately, James Smith formed a new firm of his own that specialized in manufacturing shirts. He served as Mayor of Providence for two years, was a member of the city’s School Committee, and was a Representative in the Rhode Island General Assembly. Although he failed to win the gubernatorial election of 1861, he was elected two years later and reelected twice before declining to run again. The Civil War was waged during the Smith administration, and although the citizens of Rhode Island opposed drafting soldiers, Governor Smith was able to fill the state’s troop quota through voluntary enlistment. After leaving office, he remained involved in numerous school, charitable, governmental, and business activities.


Mohr, Ralph S. Governors for Three Hundred Years (1638-1954): Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.State of Rhode Island, Graves Registration Committee, August 1954.

The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 9. New York: James T. White & Company.

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.

Recent Rhode Island Governors