Sherman W. Tribbitt
|Sherman W. Tribbitt|
|Governor of Delaware|
January 16, 1973 – January 18, 1977
|Preceded by||Russell W. Peterson|
|Succeeded by||Pierre S. du Pont IV|
|17th Lieutenant Governor of Delaware|
January 19, 1965 – January 21, 1969
|Preceded by||Eugene Lammot|
|Succeeded by||Eugene Bookhammer|
November 9, 1922|
|Died||August 14, 2010(aged 87)|
|Alma mater||Beacom College|
Sherman Willard Tribbitt (November 9, 1922 – August 14, 2010) was an American merchant and politician from Odessa, in New Castle County, Delaware. He was a veteran of World War II and was a member of the Democratic Party who served in the Delaware General Assembly, as the 17th Lieutenant Governor of Delaware and as the Governor of Delaware.
Early life and family
Tribbitt was born at Denton, Maryland, son of Sherman L. and Minnie Thawley Tribbitt. He married Jeanne Webb in 1943. They had three children, James, Carol, and Sherman "Tip" and were members of the Presbyterian Church. He studied accounting at Beacom College in Wilmington, Delaware and briefly worked at the Security Trust Company in Wilmington. During World War II he served in the United States Navy. In early 1945 he was aboard the destroyer USS Frost in the North Atlantic when his unit received a Presidential Citation for sinking five U-Boats.
Professional and political career
Following World War II, he and his father-in-law operated the Odessa Supply Company in Odessa, Delaware, where they lived.
In 1956, Tribbitt was elected to the first of four terms in the Delaware House of Representatives, where he served from the 1957–58 session through the 1963–64 session. He was the Speaker from the 1959–60 session through the 1963–64 session. Tribbitt prevailed in a difficult convention contest for the nomination and was elected Lieutenant Governor of Delaware in 1964, defeating William T. Best, a State Representative from Rehoboth Beach. He served as Lieutenant Governor from January 19, 1965 to January 21, 1969. Surprised to find Governor Charles L. Terry, Jr. wanted to serve two terms, Tribbitt had no choice but to run for a second term himself. Like Terry, he was narrowly defeated in the 1968 Republican landslide by Eugene D. Bookhammer, a State Senator from Lewes.
Governor of Delaware
Patiently planning a political recovery, Tribbitt was elected again to the Delaware House of Representatives in 1970 and was immediately elected minority leader for the 1971–72 session. When Governor Russell W. Peterson stumbled over the state’s finances, Tribbitt had another opportunity for the governorship and was elected Governor in 1972, defeating the incumbent Governor.
Tribbitt inherited the same state financial picture that forced his predecessor from office. In this time of high inflation there was constant pressure to raise salaries, particularly for teachers. The income tax rates were already among the highest in the nation and the real answer was not obvious. There was an effort to levy a large tax on the one oil refinery in the state, but that was derailed when the owner, J. Paul Getty, threatened to close the refinery. The union workers there opposed the legislation out of fear for their jobs. But the most serious financial crises involved the near collapse of the Farmers Bank. It was the state’s official bank, where all its funds were kept, as well as the place where large number of private investors had their life savings. The whole last year of Tribbitt’s administration was spent trying to rectify the situation. Eventually the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) agreed to make a large investment in the bank, as well as buying many of its loans, but the state had to invest many millions as well. In 1981, in the next administration, the bank was sold.
Tribbitt took other steps to raise revenue, including the beginning of the Delaware Lottery. He also created a new Department of Community Affairs and Economic Development to attract new industry to the state. Tribbitt sought a second term in 1976, but largely because of the unresolved financial situation, was defeated by U.S. Representative and scion of the du Pont family, Pierre S. du Pont, IV.
|Delaware General Assembly
(sessions while Governor)
|1973–1974||127th||Democratic||J. Donald Isaacs||Republican||John F. Kirk, Jr.|
|1975–1976||128th||Democratic||J. Donald Isaacs||Democratic||Casimir S. Jonkiert|
Tribbitt made yet another bid for the office in 1984, losing the Democratic primary to former Delaware Supreme Court justice, William T. Quillen. In an unusual campaign tactic, Tribbitt refused to debate his court room trained opponent, saying that he would lose the debate. After leaving office he worked with the Delaware River Basin Commission and the Diamond Group consulting firm. He relocated his residence to Dover and finally to Rehoboth Beach.
Sherman Tribbitt died on August 14, 2010, at the age of 87, a week after a severe fall. He had suffered from Alzheimer's disease. Delaware's current governor, Jack Markell, ordered state flags lowered to half staff in his honor.
Elections are held the first Tuesday after November 1. Members of the Delaware General Assembly take office the second Tuesday of January. State Representatives have a two-year term. The Governor and Lieutenant Governor take office the third Tuesday of January and each has a four-year term.
|Office||Type||Location||Began office||Ended office||notes|
|State Representative||Legislature||Dover||January 8, 1957||January 13, 1959|
|State Representative||Legislature||Dover||January 13, 1959||January 10, 1961|
|State Representative||Legislature||Dover||January 10, 1961||January 8, 1963|
|State Representative||Legislature||Dover||January 8, 1963||January 12, 1965|
|Lt. Governor||Executive||Dover||January 19, 1965||January 21, 1969|
|State Representative||Legislature||Dover||January 12, 1971||January 9, 1973|
|Governor||Executive||Dover||January 16, 1973||January 18, 1977|
|Delaware General Assembly service|
|1957–1958||119th||State House||Democratic||J. Caleb Boggs||New Castle 13th|
|1959–1960||120th||State House||Democratic||J. Caleb Boggs||Speaker||New Castle 13th|
|1961–1962||121st||State House||Democratic||Elbert N. Carvel||Speaker||New Castle 13th|
|1963–1964||122nd||State House||Democratic||Elbert N. Carvel||Speaker||New Castle 13th|
|1971–1972||126th||State House||Republican||Russell W. Peterson||27th|
|1964||Lt. Governor||General||Sherman W. Tribbett||Democratic||108,742||55%||William T. Best||Republican||89,675||45%|
|1968||Lt. Governor||General||Sherman W. Tribbitt||Democratic||99,421||49%||Eugene D. Bookhammer||Republican||101,839||51%|
|1972||Governor||General||Sherman W. Tribbitt||Democratic||117,274||51%||Russell W. Peterson||Republican||109,583||48%|
|1976||Governor||General||Sherman W. Tribbitt||Democratic||97,480||42%||Pierre S. du Pont, IV||Republican||130,531||57%|
|1984||Governor||Primary||Sherman W. Tribbitt||Democratic||14,185||41%||William T. Quillen||Democratic||20,473||59%|
- Boyer, William W. (2000). Governing Delaware. Newark, Delaware: University of Delaware Press. ISBN 1-892142-23-6.
- Cohen, Celia (2002). Only in Delaware, Politics and Politicians in the First State. Newark, Delaware: Grapevine Publishing.
- Hoffecker, Carol E. (2004). Democracy in Delaware. Wilmington, Delaware: Cedar Tree Books. ISBN 1-892142-23-6.
- Martin, Roger A. (1984). History of Delaware Through its Governors. Wilmington, Delaware: McClafferty Press.
- Martin, Roger A. (1995). Memoirs of the Senate. Newark, Delaware: Roger A. Martin.
- Hall of Governors Portrait Gallery ; Portrait courtesy of Historical and Cultural Affairs, Dover.
- Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States
- Delaware’s Governors
- The Political Graveyard
Places with more information
- Delaware Historical Society; website; 505 North Market Street, Wilmington, Delaware 19801; (302) 655-7161
- University of Delaware; Library website; 181 South College Avenue, Newark, Delaware 19717; (302) 831-2965