Back to former Tennessee governors
Thomas Clarke Rye

Gov. Thomas Clarke Rye

  • January 16, 1915 - January 14, 1919
  • Democratic
  • June 2, 1863
  • September 12, 1953
  • Tennessee
  • Married Bettie Arnold; two children


THOMAS CLARKE RYE was born in Camden, Tennessee and educated in the Benton County schools. He studied law with his uncle, Thomas C. Morris, in Charlotte, Tennessee, and was admitted to the Bar in 1884. He practiced law in Camden in partnership with Joseph E. Jones. In 1902 he moved to Paris, Tennessee, where he continued his law practice. In 1910 he became Attorney General of the 13th Judicial District, a position from which he resigned to undertake what became a successful campaign for governor. Running on a platform that opposed the repeal of prohibition, Rye and the Democratic ticket won back the support of Democrats who had voted Republican in the previous two gubernatorial elections. As governor, Rye was largely successful in his call for the enactment of laws giving the courts greater power to remove corrupt officials, making city officials responsible for the enforcement of state laws, prohibiting liquor advertising, and stopping the shipment of intoxicants. During Rye’s second administration the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution [the Prohibition amendment] was submitted for ratification. Rye refused to call the legislature into special session to act on the amendment but recommended that it be considered during regular session in January 1919. Rye left after office after two terms, returning to the practice of law in Paris. He was later elected Chancellor of the 8th Chancery Court of Tennessee in 1922, and served in that position for twenty years until his retirement in 1942. He is buried in Paris.


Carroll, Van West, Ed., Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, Nashville: Tennessee Historical Society, 1998.

Past Governors of Tennessee

Philips, Margaret I. The Governors of Tennessee. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Company, 2001.

The Political Graveyard

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.

The Tennessean, September 13, 1953.

White, Robert H. Messages of the Governors of Tennessee, 1907-1921. Nashville: The Tennessee Historical Commission, Vol. 9, 1952.

Recent Tennessee Governors