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Joseph Meriwether Terrell

Gov. Joseph Meriwether Terrell

  • October 25, 1902 - June 29, 1907
  • Democratic
  • June 6, 1861
  • November 17, 1912
  • Georgia
  • Married Jessie Lee Spivey; five children
  • Senator


JOSEPH MERIWETHER TERRELL, Georgia’s 42nd governor, was born in Greenville, Georgia, on June 6, 1861. He was educated in Greenville’s public school system until the age of 14, when he left school to become a farmer. Five years later, he studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1882, and established a legal career in Greenville. Terrell entered politics in 1884 as the youngest member of the Georgia House of Representatives, a position he held until 1887. He also served as a member of the Georgia Senate in 1890, and he was Georgia’s attorney general from 1892 to 1902. Terrell won the 1902 Democratic gubernatorial nomination and was elected Governor of Georgia. He was reelected to a second term in 1904. During his tenure, an agricultural and mechanical school for each congressional district was instituted, the College of Agriculture was founded, and the court of appeals and a state reformatory for boys were created. Also, a pure food and drug law was sanctioned, military forces were restructured, the railroad commission was strengthened, and new taxes were initiated on franchises. Governor Terrell left office on June 29, 1907, and returned to his law practice. On November 17, 1910, he was appointed to fill the vacated seat of U.S. Senator Alexander S. Clay. After serving only eight months, Terrell suffered a stroke, and was forced to resign on July 14, 1911. Governor Joseph M. Terrell died on November 17, 1912, and he is buried in the Greenville City Cemetery.


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.

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