Daniel Lindsay Russell

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Daniel Lindsay Russell
Daniel Lindsay Russell.jpg
49th Governor of North Carolina
In office
January 12, 1897 – January 15, 1901
Lieutenant Charles A. Reynolds
Preceded by Elias Carr
Succeeded by Charles Brantley Aycock
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from North Carolina's 3rd district
In office
March 4, 1879 – March 3, 1881
Preceded by Alfred Moore Waddell
Succeeded by John Williams Shackelford
Personal details
Born (1845-08-07)August 7, 1845
Brunswick County, North Carolina
Died May 14, 1908(1908-05-14) (aged 62)
near Wilmington, North Carolina
Political party Republican
Occupation Attorney, judge

Daniel Lindsay Russell, Jr. (August 7, 1845 – May 14, 1908) was the 49th Governor of North Carolina, serving from 1897 to 1901. An attorney, judge, and politician, he had also been elected as state representative and to the United States Congress, serving 1879-1881. Although he fought with the Confederacy during the Civil War, Russell and his father were both Unionists. After the war, Russell joined the Republican Party in North Carolina, which was an unusual affiliation for one of the planter class. In the postwar period he served as a state judge, as well as in the state and national legislatures.

Elected on a Fusionist ticket in 1896, a collaboration between Republicans and Populists that was victorious over the Democrats, Russell was the first Republican elected as governor in North Carolina since the end of the Reconstruction era in 1877. During his term, he approved legislation to extend the franchise by reducing the property requirement; it benefited the white majority in the state as well as blacks.

To prevent such a political coalition from being successful again, in 1898 elections Democrats conducted a campaign of fear, stressing white supremacy, and regained power in the state legislature. Democrats in the Wilmington Insurrection of 1898, which took place in the largest city, overthrew the elected, biracial government headed by a white mayor and majority white council, beginning two days after the election. It is the only coup d'état in United States history. Russell's efforts to suppress the white riot were unsuccessful, and mobs attacked black neighborhoods, driving so many blacks permanently from the city that it became majority white.

The following year Democrats in the state legislature passed a new constitution over Russell's opposition and without submitting it to voters. It disfranchised nearly all blacks and many poor whites. As a result, Russell was the last Republican elected as governor in this state until 1973. By that time, voters were realigning and white conservatives had joined the Republican Party. Since the late 20th century, southern white conservatives have generally supported Republican candidates at the state and national level.

Early life and education[edit]

Born on Winnabow Plantation in Brunswick County near Wilmington, North Carolina, Russell, Jr. was the son of Daniel Lindsay Russell and Elizabeth Caroline Sanders, daughter of a prominent planter family. Following his mother's death three months after his birth, Russell, Jr. lived at his mother's family's Palo Alto Plantation for six years before leaving for the Bingham School in Orange County, North Carolina.[1] Russell attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, but left soon after the outbreak of the American Civil War. He was commissioned as a captain in the Confederate Army and served in the war.


Russell was elected as a member of the North Carolina House of Commons, serving 1864–1866. During that time, he studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1866; he set up practice in Wilmington. He and his father had both been Union sympathizers during the war, and Russell joined the Republican Party of the late president Abraham Lincoln.

In 1868, Russell was appointed a Superior Court judge in the 4th judicial circuit, a post he held until 1874. In 1871 he was a delegate to a state constitutional convention. In 1876, despite the activity of the paramilitary Red Shirts to suppress Republican political activity and, particularly, black voting, and struggle of Democratic white supremacists to regain political control in the state, Russell was elected again to the North Carolina House of Representatives. He was a delegate to the 1876 Republican National Convention.

Following withdrawal of federal troops from the South and the end of Reconstruction, on November 5, 1878, Russell was elected to the 46th United States Congress, running on the Republican and Greenback tickets; in a close election, he defeated the Democratic Party incumbent Alfred M. Waddell by 11,611 votes to 10,730.[2] Russell served one term (March 4, 1879 – March 4, 1881) and did not stand for renomination.

In the mid-1890s, the new Populist Party allied with the Republican Party in North Carolina; the alliance ran "Fusion" candidates for many offices. In 1896, the two parties held separate state conventions to allow the Populists to nominate Presidential Electors pledged to William J. Bryan. At the Republican state convention in Raleigh on May 16, 1896, Russell was nominated for Governor on the seventh ballot over former U.S. Representative Oliver H. Dockery. Disgruntled, Dockery convinced the Populists to run a separate statewide slate of candidates against the Republicans, with Dockery as the Populist nominee for Lieutenant Governor.

On November 3, 1896, Russell was elected Governor of North Carolina. He won with 153,787 votes (46.5%) to 145,266 votes for Democrat Cyrus B. Watson, 31,143 for Populist William A. Guthrie, and 809 for others.[3] He served one four-year term. Fusionists also won control of the legislature and passed a bill to extend the franchise for the first time since Reconstruction by supporting a reduction in property requirements for voters, which benefited whites, who were the majority in the state, as well as blacks. Russell signed the bill.

Although Russell was not up for election in 1898, Democrats used him as a foil in a campaign based on fear and restoring white supremacy; they regained control of the state legislature that year.[4]

On November 8, 1898, the voters of Wilmington, then the state's largest city and with a black majority, elected a biracial city government of Fusionist candidates: the mayor was white and 2/3 of the city aldermen were white. But, white agitators, led by Alfred Waddell, whom Russell had defeated for Congress in 1878, had planned to overthrow the city government if the Democrats lost. Waddell and his followers led what is known as the Wilmington Insurrection of 1898 and a coup d'etat against the mayor and city council. Afterward, Waddell led a mob of more than 1500 white men in attacking the only black-owned newspaper in the state.[5] The mob went on to attack the city's African-American neighborhoods, particularly Brooklyn, killing some people and chasing hundreds out of town. Governor Russell ordered the Wilmington Light Infantry (WLI) and federal Navy Reserves to quell the riot; instead they became involved. Because of the attacks, nearly 2100 blacks left the city permanently, and its demographics were changed to a white majority.[6]

To prevent "fusionist" coalitions or Republicans winning office again, in 1899 the Democrats used their control of the state legislature to pass an amendment that effectively disenfranchised blacks and many poor whites. As a result, voter rolls dropped dramatically, blacks were mostly excluded from the political system until the 1960s, and the Republican Party was crippled in the state.

Russell was the last Republican elected as governor until 1973. By that time, changes in political affiliations and a realignment of voters in the South were taking place. Unhappy with the direction of the national Democratic Party in its support of the civil rights movement, southern white conservatives left the Democrats and moved into the Republican Party, electing its gubernatorial candidate in 1973. This shift had increased after Congressional passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965, and most whites in the South have voted Republican for national and often state offices since the late 20th century. Minorities tend to support the Democratic Party, which had supported enforcement of constitutional rights.

After finishing his term, Russell resumed the practice of law in Wilmington and operated his Belville Plantation. He died at his plantation near Wilmington in 1908. He was interred in the family burying ground in Onslow County, North Carolina.


  1. ^ H. McKelden Smith and Jerry L. Cross (n.d.). "Palo Alto Plantation" (PDF). National Register of Historic Places - Nomination and Inventory. North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office. Retrieved 2015-02-01. 
  2. ^ Our Campaigns - NC District 03 Race - Nov 05, 1878 at www.ourcampaigns.com
  3. ^ Our Campaigns - NC Governor Race - Nov 03, 1896 at www.ourcampaigns.com
  4. ^ "Chapter 3: Practical Politics", 1898 Wilmington Race Riot Commission Report, North Carolina Dept. of Cultural Resources
  5. ^ "Chapter 5", 1898 Wilmington Race Riot Commission Report, North Carolina Dept. of Cultural Resources
  6. ^ John DeSantis, "Wilmington, N.C., Revisits a Bloody 1898 Day", The New York Times, pp. 1 & 33, 4 June 2006, accessed 23 August 2012

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Alfred M. Waddell
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from North Carolina's 3rd congressional district

Succeeded by
John W. Shackelford
Political offices
Preceded by
Elias Carr
Governor of North Carolina
Succeeded by
Charles Brantley Aycock