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Alabama Governors

William Wyatt Bibb

photo of portrait of Ala. Governor William Wyatt Bibb

 

1819-1820

 

Alabama's first governor, William Wyatt Bibb, was born in Amelia City, Virginia, though his family soon moved to Georgia. Bibb attended William and Mary College and the University of Pennsylvania, obtaining an M.D. degree in 1801. Bibb returned to Georgia and began practicing medicine in Petersburg. He quickly entered politics. Bibb served in the Georgia House and Senate and in the U.S. Congress from 1806-1816. He was appointed governor of the new Alabama Territory in 1817.

 

Bibb was elected governor of the state of Alabama by popular election, receiving 8,342 votes, with 7,140 votes cast for his opponent, Marmaduke Williams. The major issues of the campaign were the location of the state capital and opposition to the "Georgia Faction" in Alabama politics. Williams' followers contended that Bibb used autocratic powers in securing Cahaba as the location of the capital. They also felt that former Georgia politicians, such as Bibb, William H. Crawford, John Williams Walker, and Charles Tait, had too much power in Alabama and did not represent the interests of the common man.

 

During Bibb's term of office, his primary concern was setting up the foundations of state government. Former Secretary of the Territory, Henry Hitchcock, was named Attorney General, while Thomas A. Rogers was elected secretary of state. The state militia was organized. The first US Senators from Alabama, William R. King and John Williams Walker, were chosen. The state legislature met in its first session October 25 to December 17, 1819. The state supreme court was organized in May, 1820. Bibb was actively involved in the preparations to make Cahaba the seat of government and oversaw the laying of streets and the construction of buildings.

 

Bibb did not live to see Cahaba installed as the state capital. Bibb spent the last year of his life in constant pain from tuberculosis and a kidney injury. He died on July 10, 1820. William Wyatt Bibb's brother, Thomas, automatically became acting governor by virtue of his position as president of the Alabama Senate. William Wyatt Bibb was married to Mary Freeman.

 


Authorities:
Atkins, Leah. "The First Legislative Session: The General Assembly of Alabama Huntsville",1819. Alabama Review XXIII (1970): 30-44.
Brantley, William H. Jr. Three Capitols, 1947.
Owen, Thomas M. History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography, 1921.
Pickett, Albert James. History of Alabama, 1900
Rogers, William Warren, et.al., Alabama: the History of a Deep South State, 1994.
Stewart, John Craig. The Governors of Alabama, 1975.