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William Bradley Umstead
North Carolina

Gov. William Bradley Umstead

  • January 8, 1953 - November 7, 1954
  • Democratic
  • May 13, 1895
  • November 7, 1954
  • North Carolina
  • University of North Carolina, Duke University
  • Married Merle Davis; one child
  • Died in office
  • Representative
  • Army


WILLIAM B. UMSTEAD, the sixty-third governor of North Carolina, was born in Durham County, North Carolina on May 13, 1895. His education was attained at Durham High School, and at the University of North Carolina, where he graduated in 1916. After serving as a second lieutenant in the 81st “Wildcat Division” during World War I, Umstead returned to his education. He studied law at Duke University, and then established his legal career in Durham. Umstead first entered politics as the prosecuting attorney of the Durham County Recorder’s Court, a position he held from 1922 to 1926. He also served as the solicitor of the Tenth Judicial District from 1927 to 1933; was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1933 to 1939; and served as the campaign manager for R. Gregg Cherry’s 1944 gubernatorial bid. Umstead next secured the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, and was elected governor by a popular vote on November 4, 1952. Two days after his inauguration, Umstead suffered a heart attack. Despite his ill health, Umstead was able run the state government. During his tenure, a bi-racial committee on education was formed; the board of paroles was restructured; and industrial incentives were promoted. While in office, Umstead contracted pneumonia, and consequently passed away on November 7, 1954. Governor William B. Umstead was buried in the Mount Tabor Church Cemetery in Durham County, North Carolina.


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

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