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William Alexander Graham
North Carolina

Gov. William Alexander Graham

  • January 1, 1845 - January 1, 1849
  • Whig
  • September 5, 1804
  • August 11, 1875
  • North Carolina
  • University of North Carolina
  • Married Susannah Sarah Washington; ten children
  • Senator, Cabinet secretary


WILLIAM A. GRAHAM, the thirtieth governor of North Carolina, was born near Lincolnton, North Carolina on September 5, 1804. His education was attained at the University of North Carolina, where he graduated in 1824. He went on to study law, and then established his legal career in Hillsboro. Graham first entered politics in 1833, serving as a member of the North Carolina House of Commons, a position he held seven years. He also served as speaker of the house from 1838 to 1840; and was a member of the U.S. Senate from 1840 to 1843. Graham next secured the Whig gubernatorial nomination, and was elected governor by a popular vote in 1844. He was reelected to a second term in 1846. During his tenure, railroad improvements were initiated; a state hospital was organized; and educational issues were lobbied for. After leaving the governorship, Graham continued to stay politically active. From 1850 to 1852 he served in President Fillmore’s cabinet as secretary of the navy; and from 1854 to 1866 he served in the North Carolina Senate, which included service in the state Confederate Congress. In 1866 he was elected to the U.S. Senate, however he never presented his credentials. Graham also served as a delegate to the 1866 Philadelphia Union Convention; was an arbitrator on the committee that negotiated the Maryland and Virginia border disagreement; and served on the 1875 North Carolina constitutional convention. Governor William A. Graham, who was an unsuccessful 1852 Whig vice presidential candidate, passed away on August 11, 1875. He was buried in the Presbyterian Churchyard Cemetery in Hillsboro, North Carolina.


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

Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction


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