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William Hugh Smith

Gov. William Hugh Smith

  • July 13, 1868 - November 26, 1870
  • Republican
  • April 26, 1826
  • January 1, 1899
  • Georgia
  • Married Lucy Wortham; eight children


WILLIAM HUGH SMITH, Alabama’s 21st governor, was born in Fayette County, Georgia, on April 26, 1826. In 1839, he moved with his parents, Jeptha and Nancy Smith, to Randolph County, Alabama. Smith received an academic education, studied law with John T. Heflin, passed the bar in 1850, and partnered with James Aiken in a law practice. He started his political career in the Alabama House of Representatives, serving from 1855 to 1859. He was a presidential elector in 1860, and was unsuccessful in his bid for the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States in 1861. In 1862, Smith crossed the lines of the federal forces, and remained there until the end of the Civil War. He returned to Alabama and applied for a presidential pardon. Smith was appointed a judge in the 10th judicial circuit, but resigned from the bench six months later to participate in the organization of the Republican Party in Alabama. Smith was nominated in the 1868 gubernatorial election, and became Alabama’s first elected Republican governor on February 4, 1868. He was sworn into office on July 13, 1868. During his term, the general assembly ratified the 14th Amendment to the Federal Constitution, and elected U.S. senators to represent Alabama. Also during Smith’s administration, the University of Alabama reopened, the legislature ratified the 15th Amendment to the U.S.Constitution, bonds were endorsed to expand the state’s railways, and the development of Alabama’s mineral and natural resources was encouraged. Smith ran for reelection in 1870, but was defeated, in a narrow victory by Democrat Robert B. Lindsay. Smith, refusing to turn over the governor’s seat, held on to his office for three weeks following Lindsay’s inauguration. The second judicial court ordered Smith to leave office, and he finally did so on November 26, 1870. Smith was reappointed to the circuit court bench in 1873, and served as a U.S. district judge for northern and middle Alabama from 1881 to 1885. Smith died on January 1, 1899, and is buried at the Oak Hill Cemetery, Birmingham, 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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