WILLIAM JAMES SAMFORD was born in Greenville, Georgia, on September 16, 1844. As a child, he moved with his parents to Chambers County, Alabama. He was educated in private schools, attended the East Alabama Male College (now Auburn University) for one year, and the University of Georgia, leaving in 1862 to join the Confederate Army. In May 1863, Samford was captured and imprisoned for 18 months at Johnson’s Island, Lake Erie. In 1864 he was released and returned to his regiment, serving until the end of the war. Samford returned to Auburn after the war and became a cotton farmer. He studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1867, and started a law practice in Opelika. Samford entered politics in 1872 as Opelika’s alderman, and was a delegate to the State Democratic Convention. He was a member of the 1875 Alabama Constitutional Convention, and the U.S. House of Representatives, serving from 1879 to 1881. In 1882 Samford served in the Alabama House of Representatives and the Alabama Senate from 1884 to 1886, and in 1892, serving as president in 1886. He was on the Board of Trustees to the University of Alabama in 1896. On August 5, 1900, Samford was elected Alabama’s 31st governor. At the time of his inauguration, Samford was ill, and William D. Jelks, president of the Alabama Senate, became acting governor. Samford was sworn into office on December 26, 1900, but held office for only six months. He died on June 11, 1901, while attending a university trustees meeting in Tuscaloosa. During his short term, the Alabama Department of Archives and History was created and the 1901 Constitutional Convention was writing the state’s present constitution. Samford is buried in the Rosemere Cemetery, Opelika, Alabama.
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.