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William Dorsey Jelks

Gov. William Dorsey Jelks

  • June 11, 1901 - April 25, 1904
    March 5, 1905 - January 14, 1907
  • Democratic
  • November 7, 1855
  • December 13, 1931
  • Alabama
  • Mercer University
  • Married Alice Shorter; one child
  • Succeeded


WILLIAM DORSEY JELKS was born in Warrior Stand, Alabama, on November 7, 1855. He was educated at public schools in Bullock County, Alabama, graduated from Mercer University, and received a law degree from the University of Alabama. Jelks was owner of the Union Springs Herald in 1879, and was owner and editor of the Eufaula Alabama Times. He also served on the board, and was superintendent of the Eufaula schools. Jelks entered politics in 1898 when he was elected to the Alabama Senate, serving as president from 1900 to 1901. He served a month as acting governor during the temporary incapacitation of Governor William J. Samford, and succeeded to the office on June 11, 1901, when Governor Samford died. Jelks was nominated, and elected Alabama’s 32nd governor, on November 4, 1902. Because of illness, Jelks abdicated his duties and traveled to the West for his health. Lieutenant Governor Russell M. Cunningham served as acting governor, until March 5, 1905, when Jelks returned to office. During his administration, the 1901 Alabama Constitution was ratified, which established the term of office of governor as four years, and reinstated the office of lieutenant governor. The State Textbook Commission was formed, the Alabama Power Company was organized, the State Railroad Commission was reformed, and the state capitol was expanded and renovated. Jelks left office on January 14, 1907, serving longer than any governor before him. Afterward, he organized and was president of the Protective Life Insurance Company in Birmingham. Jelks was a delegate to the 1912 Democratic Convention, and a Democratic National Committeeman for Alabama. He died on December 13, 1931, and is buried at the Fairview Cemetery, Eufaula, Alabama.


Alabama Department of Archives and History

The Political Graveyard

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.

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