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Richard Dobbs Spaight Sr.
North Carolina

Gov. Richard Dobbs Spaight Sr.

  • December 13, 1792 - November 18, 1795
  • Anti-Federalist
  • March 24, 1758
  • September 5, 1802
  • North Carolina
  • University of Glasgow
  • Married Mary Leech; three children
  • Representative
  • National Guard


RICHARD D. SPAIGHT was born in New Bern, North Carolina on March 25, 1758. After the death of his parents, Spaight was sent to Europe, where his education was attained in Ireland, and later he attended the University of Glasgow in Scotland. In 1778, he became involved in the independence movement. He served as an aide to General Caswell, and fought in the battle of Camden. Spaight first entered politics as a member of the North Carolina Assembly, a position he held from 1779 to 1783. He served in the Continental Congress from 1783 to 1785; was a member of the North Carolina House of Commons from 1785 to 1787 and 1792; and served as speaker of the house in 1785. He also served as a delegate to the 1787 constitutional convention, as well as attending the 1788 state ratification convention. Spaight next won election to the governor’s office in 1792, and was reelected annually until 1794. During his tenure, Chapel Hill was chosen for the site of the state university; and Raleigh became the preferred location for the state capitol. Also, Spaight served as president of the university during his gubernatorial term. After leaving the governorship, he served in the U.S. House of Representatives, an office he held from 1798 to 1801. In his last political position, he served as a member of the North Carolina Senate from 1801 to 1802. Governor Richard D. Spaight, who was seriously wounded in a duel with John Stanly, a political adversary, passed away on September 6, 1802. He was buried on his Clermont estate in the family sepulcher, near New Bern, North Carolina.

Note: “National Guard” refers to Spaight’s service in the North Carolina militia.


Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources (search keyword: Governors)

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

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

Recent North Carolina Governors