Back to former Alabama governors
John Malcolm Patterson

Gov. John Malcolm Patterson

  • January 19, 1959 - January 14, 1963
  • Democratic
  • September 27, 1921
  • Alabama
  • University of Alabama
  • Married twice — Mary Jo McGowin, Florentine Brachert Sawyer; three children
  • Army


JOHN MALCOLM PATTERSON was born in Goldville, Alabama, on September 27, 1921, to Albert Love and Agnes Louise Patterson. In 1939 he joined the U.S. Army after graduating from Central High School in Phenix City, Alabama. During World War II, Patterson participated in seven campaigns in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, southern France, and Germany. After being honorably discharged with the rank of major, Patterson attended the University of Alabama, earning a law degree in 1949. He was reactivated for service during the Korean War, returned to Phenix City in 1953, and joined the law practice of his father, Albert. With a vow to clean up illegal gambling and crime in Phenix City, Albert Patterson won the Democratic Party’s nomination for state attorney general. However, the senior Patterson was assassinated before he could assume office. John replaced his father as the Democratic nominee, was elected attorney general, and carried out his father’s platform for the next four years. On November 4, 1958, Patterson was elected governor of Alabama, and was sworn into office on January 19, 1959. During his tenure as governor, additional funding was provided for the mentally ill, old age pensions were supplemented, and the first statewide school building program was approved, which resulted in 700 new projects. The State Highway Building and the Industrial Relations Building started construction, and improvements were made to Alabama’s docks and waterways. Also, Huntsville was selected as the site for the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, and approval was given to a four-year highway construction project. The civil rights movement played a stormy role during Patterson’s administration. Governor Patterson was a staunch supporter of the state’s segregationist position and he clashed with the John F. Kennedy administration over the handling of the Freedom Riders. Patterson left office on January 14, 1963, and returned to his law practice in Montgomery. He ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1966, and unsuccessfully for chief justice of the state’s supreme court in 1972. Patterson was appointed judge of the Alabama court of criminal appeals in 1984, and remained on the bench until his retirement in January 1997.


Alabama Department of Archives & History

Lyman Ward Military Academy Alumni

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 Alabama Governors