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William Tharp Watson

Gov. William Tharp Watson

  • April 8, 1895 - January 19, 1897
  • Democrat
  • June 22, 1849
  • April 14, 1917
  • Delaware
  • Married Harriet Beale; one child
  • Succeeded


WILLIAM THARP WATSON, Delaware’s 41st governor, was born in Milford, Delaware, on June 22, 1849. Before entering politics, Watson became a successful businessman and banker. He served as a member and president of the Delaware State Senate. On April 8, 1895, Governor Joshua H. Marvil died in office and Watson, who was president of the senate at the time, assumed the duties of the governorship. During his tenure, a bitter dispute erupted in 1895 that concerned Delaware’s U.S. Senate seat. The battle involved Anthony Higgins, who had been a senator for six years, and whether he had a Republican majority in the Delaware Assembly necessary for his reelection. He was able to get the majority for his appointment, but failed to get the number for election, even when the legislature met in a joint conference. Governor Watson declared that he had the justification to vote and claimed his senate seat. However, the speaker of the house did not acknowledge his vote, and Henry DuPont was named the senator. The struggle ended when the U.S. Senate refused DuPont his seat, leaving Delaware with a senatorial vacancy. Watson left the governor’s office on January 19, 1897, and retired from public service. Governor William T. Watson died on April 14, 1917, and he is buried at the Odd Fellows Cemetery in Milford, Delaware.


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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