MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WHNT) — The governor’s mansion in Montgomery has been home to more than 50 chief executives since Alabama became a state in 1819. However, quite a few of those governors stayed in office less than one year – some even less than six months.
A total of 59 men and women have served as Governor of Alabama, including those who served in an acting capacity.
In the first Alabama Constitution ratified in 1819, the governor was limited to a two-year term, capable of being re-elected once as long as they didn’t serve more than four years in a six-year period. The 1901 constitution updated that language to allow for one, non-renewable four-year term; however, it allowed for non-consecutive terms, meaning a governor could be elected, serve four years, lay low for four years, and then run again.
The current law states that the Governor of Alabama can serve two consecutive four-year terms.
Based on all of that information, News 19 broke down the numbers to compile a list of the shortest-serving governors in the history of the Yellowhammer State. For this list, acting governors who were later elected are not included.
5. Samuel B. Moore
- How long did they serve? 268 days
- When were they Governor of Alabama? March 3, 1831 to November 26, 1831
According to the Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH), Moore took office in 1831 after the resignation of Governor Gabriel Moore, who was appointed to the U.S. Senate.
Moore began his political career in the Alabama Senate, and was elected as the body’s president in 1831. He became governor later that year.
During Moore’s 268 days as Alabama’s governor, he oversaw the opening of the University of Alabama and approved legislation that extended state control over Native Americans in Alabama, according to encyclopediaofalabama.org.
Moore died in 1846. He was said to be poverty-stricken, left no estate, and was buried in an unmarked grave. The Masonic Society of Carrollton erected a monument for him in 1918.
4. William Wyatt Bibb
- How long did they serve? 209 days
- When were they Governor of Alabama? December 14, 1819 to July 10, 1820
Technically, Bibb led the State of Alabama for more than 209 days. He started as the leader of the Alabama Territory in 1817, but didn’t begin a formal tenure as governor until 1819 when he was popularly elected.
ADAH states that Bibb is credited with setting up the state government, appointing the first U.S. senators, oversaw the laying of streets and building construction, and set up Cahaba as the state’s first capital city; however, he didn’t live to see that happen.
Bibb died on July 10, 1820, after just over 200 days of officially being the state’s governor. He was succeeded by his brother, Thomas, who was serving as President of the Alabama Senate.
3. William J. Samford
- How long did they serve? 192 days
- When were they Governor of Alabama? December 1, 1900 to June 11, 1901
Two huge events in Alabama history happened during the very short tenure of Governor William J. Samford.
The first was the 1901 convention that saw the drafting of Alabama’s current constitution. The second was the creation of the Alabama Department of Archives and History.
He started in politics as an alderman in Opelika, before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for one term in 1878. He returned to serve in the state legislature from 1882 to 1896 before being elected governor.
According to ADAH, Samford was sick for most of his term, even missing the first few weeks of tenure because he was out of state receiving medical treatment. He lasted only six more months and died during a university board of trustees meeting in Tuscaloosa on June 11, 1901.
2. Lewis E. Parsons
- How long did they serve? 175 days
- When were they Governor of Alabama? June 21, 1865 to December 13, 1865
Parsons’ short time as governor stemmed from the chaos that erupted across the South after the American Civil War. A general named George H. Thomas was charged with overseeing state affairs, but on June 21, 1865, Parson was appointed head of the state’s provisional government.
Parsons reinstated all Alabama laws before 1861 except slavery.
His tenure as governor ended on December 13, 1865, when Robert M. Patton was inaugurated. Parsons was chosen to serve in the U.S. Senate but was denied by the Republican Party. He later returned to law practice.
1. Hugh McVay
- How long did they serve? 127 days
- When were they Governor of Alabama? July 17, 1837 to November 21, 1837
Hugh McVay is the man who had the shortest tenure as Alabama’s governor without being elected in his own right. He served for just 127 days in 1837.
According to the National Governor’s Association, McVay’s journey to the governor’s mansion ran through the state legislature. He first entered politics in 1811 as a member of the Mississippi Territorial Legislature before moving to Lauderdale County, Ala. in 1819, where he served as a member of the Alabama Constitutional Convention.
McVay served in the Alabama House from 1820 to 1825, and the Alabama Senate from 1825 to 1844, except for his brief stint as governor.
His tenure as the state’s chief executive came from then-governor Clement Comer Clay resigning to take a seat in the U.S. Senate. McVay, as President of the Alabama Senate, succeeded him. He was followed in the role of governor by Arthur P. Bagby.
McVay died at his Lauderdale County plantation in 1851. He is buried in Mars Hill’s Moore-McVay Cemetery.