Back to former Delaware governors
John Gillis Townsend

Gov. John Gillis Townsend

  • January 16, 1917 - January 18, 1921
  • Republican
  • May 31, 1871
  • April 10, 1964
  • Maryland
  • Married Jennie Collins; seven children
  • Senator


JOHN GILLIS TOWNSEND JR., Delaware’s 47th governor, was born in Bishopville, Maryland, on May 31, 1871. After completing grammar school, Townsend began working for a railroad. He eventually became a successful businessman with diverse interests and investments. His company, Townsend, Inc., was the largest poultry processor in the country, and at one point he was the second largest orchardist in the nation. In 1903 he founded and was president of the Baltimore Trust Company. He also served as president of the Peninsula Real Estate Company, the Eastern Shore Orchard Company, and several other companies. Townsend entered politics as a member of the Delaware House of Representatives, an office he held from 1901 to 1903. He also served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention from 1904 to 1906. Townsend won the 1916 Republican gubernatorial nomination and was elected Governor of Delaware. He was sworn into office on January 18, 1921. During his tenure, he advocated for improving the transportation system and advancing women’s suffrage. He also endorsed legislation for school reform and workmen’s compensation, and he supported the initiation of social service programs. Townsend’s term ended on January 18, 1921, and he continued to stay active in public service. He served as a member of the U.S. Senate from 1929 to 1942, and served as chairman of the Republican Senate Campaign from 1936 to 1942. He also served as an alternate delegate to the United Nations General Assembly, and was a member of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial Commission from 1939 to 1940. Governor John G. Townsend Jr. died on April 10, 1964, and is buried at the Red Men’s Cemetery in Selbyville, Delaware.


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.

Recent Delaware Governors