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John Willis Ellis
North Carolina

Gov. John Willis Ellis

  • January 1, 1859 - July 7, 1861
  • Democratic
  • November 23, 1820
  • July 7, 1861
  • North Carolina
  • Randolph Macon College, University of North Carolina
  • Married twice—Mary White, Mary McKinley; two children
  • Died in office


JOHN W. ELLIS, the thirty-fifth governor of North Carolina, was born in Rowan County, North Carolina on November 23, 1820. His education was attained at Randolph Macon College, and at the University of North Carolina, where he graduated in 1841. He went on to study law, and then established his legal career in Salisbury. Ellis first entered politics in 1843, serving as a delegate to the Democratic State Convention. He also served as a member of the North Carolina House of Commons from 1844 to 1849; and was a North Carolina Superior Court justice from 1848 to 1858. Ellis next secured the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, and was elected governor by a popular vote on August 5, 1858. He was reelected to a second term in 1860. During his tenure, the state militia was restructured; internal improvements were advanced; and an 1861 secession convention was held that sanctioned North Carolina leaving the Union. While still in office, Governor John W. Ellis passed away on July 7, 1861. His final resting place was in the Old English Cemetery in Salisbury, North Carolina.


Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United, 1789-1978, Vol. 3, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction

University Library, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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