THOMAS HILL WATTS was born on January 3, 1819, in the Alabama Territory, which is present-day Greenville, Alabama. He attended Airy Mount Academy in Dallas County, Alabama, before graduating with honors from the University of Virginia in 1840. Watts studied law, passed the bar in 1841, and began practicing in Greenville. In 1848, he moved his practice to Montgomery. He became a successful planter and he owned 179 slaves. Watts entered politics in 1842, serving in Alabama House of Representatives until 1845. He was a presidential elector in 1848 and a member of the Alabama Senate from 1853 to 1856. He was an unsuccessful candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1855, and again in 1861, when he made a run for the Alabama governorship. Watts was a pro-Union advocate, but after the election of Abraham Lincoln he felt the need for secession, and he became a member of the Alabama Secession Convention in 1861. At the onset of the Civil War, he organized the 17th Alabama Infantry, but he resigned to become attorney general for the Confederate government on March 18, 1862. On August 3, 1863, Watts was elected Alabama’s 18th governor, and he was sworn into office on December 1, 1863. The strain of the war on his home state complicated his term, but Watts supported the Confederate cause. He faced an increasing number of sacrifices on his state—the drain on war power, desertion rates, blockade running, and an evaporating optimism of victory. Watts realized his ineffectiveness and did not run for reelection. He was arrested in Union Springs on May 1, 1865, and was released a few weeks later. After being released, he resumed his law practice in Montgomery. He served in Alabama House of Representatives from 1880 to 1881, and was president of the Alabama Bar Association from 1889 to 1890. Governor Watts died on September 16, 1892, and is buried in the Oakwood Cemetery, Montgomery, Alabama.
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.