SAMUEL WARD KING was born in Johnston, Rhode Island. He attended Brown University but did not graduate, instead choosing to study medicine. He served as a surgeon during the War of 1812. In 1820 he was elected Town Clerk of Johnston. In 1838 he was elected to the Rhode Island Senate, from which he assumed the governorship when the legislature failed to choose from among three candidates who had each failed to win fifty percent of the vote and to select a Lieutenant Governor. He was, however, elected to three additional terms. During King’s administration, the Dorr Rebellion [which, led by Thomas Dorr, sought to extend suffrage to non-propertied men] took place, and Dorrites chose their own governor. King requested help from the federal government, which recognized him as the lawful governor. When Dorr and his followers made a move to take power, King proclaimed martial law and Dorr’s army was dispersed. Although the Dorr Rebellion had failed, King retired from the governorship and a more liberal state constitution was ultimately adopted.
Mohr, Ralph S. Governors for Three Hundred Years (1638-1954): Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.State of Rhode Island, Graves Registration Committee, August 1954.
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 9. New York: James T. White & Company.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.