Back to former Virginia governors
Thomas Jefferson

Gov. Thomas Jefferson

  • June 1, 1779 - June 3, 1781
  • April 13, 1743
  • July 4, 1826
  • Virginia
  • College of William and Mary
  • Married Martha Wayles Skelton; six children
  • Representative, Vice President, President, Cabinet secretary, Ambassador
  • Drafter of the Declaration of Independence


Drafter of the Declaration of Independence, THOMAS JEFFERSON is a revered founding father of the United States but is less well known for having served as the second governor of Virginia after independence from England was declared. Born in Albemarle County, Virginia, he studied at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg and then read law. Unlike Patrick Henry–his predecessor as governor of Virginia–Jefferson was considered to be a silent member of the Continental Congress, using instead his writing genius to pen the indelible words that launched American independence. After serving for two years as governor, he succeeded Benjamin Franklin as Minister to France and became Secretary of State under George Washington. As a two-party system developed–consisting of Federalists and Democrat-Republicans–Jefferson assumed leadership of the Republicans, who sympathized with the French Revolution and opposed a strong centralized government in the United States. He became Vice President under John Adams in 1796 and President four years later. His presidential legacy includes the Louisiana Purchase from Napolean in 1803 and support for the Lewis and Clark expedition. He retired to Monticello, the home that he had begun building in his twenties. At age seventy-six, he participated in the founding of the University of Virginia. Jefferson died on the fiftieth anniversary of Independence Day, at age eighty-three. Jefferson County, Virginia (now in West Virginia), formed in 1801, was named in honor of Thomas Jefferson.


Library of Virginia, Virginia Governor, Executive Papers (1799-1781: Jefferson). Accession 29604. Biographical/Historical Note. State Government Records Collection, Library of Virginia, Richmond, VA 23219.

The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 3. New York: James T. White & Company.

Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

Colonial Williamsburg


U.S. Department of State

The White House

Recent Virginia Governors