Thomas Jordan Jarvis

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Thomas Jordan Jarvis
United States Senator
from North Carolina
In office
April 19, 1894 – January 23, 1895
Serving with Matt W. Ransom
Preceded by Zebulon Baird Vance
Succeeded by Jeter C. Pritchard
16th United States Minister to the Empire of Brazil
In office
July 11, 1885 – November 19, 1888
President Grover Cleveland
Preceded by Thomas A. Osborn
Succeeded by Robert Adams, Jr.
44th Governor of North Carolina
In office
February 5, 1879 – January 21, 1885
Lieutenant Vacant
James L. Robinson
Preceded by Zebulon Baird Vance
Succeeded by Alfred Moore Scales
3rd Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina
In office
Governor Zebulon Baird Vance
Preceded by Curtis H. Brogden
Succeeded by James L. Robinson
Personal details
Born (1836-01-18)January 18, 1836
Jarvisburg, North Carolina
Died June 17, 1915(1915-06-17) (aged 79)
Greenville, North Carolina
Political party Democratic
Alma mater Randoph-Macon College
Military service
Allegiance Confederate States of America Confederate States of America
Service/branch Confederate Army
Years of service 1861–1864
Rank Captain
Unit Eighth North Carolina Regiment
Battles/wars Battle of Drewry's Bluff

Thomas Jordan Jarvis (January 18, 1836 – June 17, 1915) was the 44th Governor of the U.S. state of North Carolina from 1879 to 1885. Jarvis later served as a U.S. Senator from 1894 to 1895, and helped establish East Carolina Teachers Training School in 1907.


Early years[edit]

Born in Jarvisburg, North Carolina, in Currituck County, he was the son of Elizabeth Daley and Bannister Hardy Jarvis, a Methodist minister and farmer[1] and brother of George, Ann, Margaret, and Elizabeth. His family was of English descent and some of its members highlighted at various points in the history of North Carolina. So, Thomas Jarvis was lieutenant governor of Albemarle during the government of Philip Ludwell, between 1691–97, and General Samuel Jarvis led the militia of Albemarle during his fight in the Revolutionary War. Raised in a poor family, although he had the necessities of life, Jarvis worked when he was young in three hundred acre farm owned by his father, while he was studying about the common schools.[1] Jarvis was educated locally and at nineteen went on to attend Randoph-Macon College, earning an M.A. in 1861. He had to exercise as teacher during the summer to pay for college tuition.[1] An educator by training, Jarvis opened a school in Pasquotank County and would later be one of the founders of East Carolina University.


Jarvis enlisted in the military at the beginning of the American Civil War and served in the Eighth North Carolina Regiment. On April 22, 1863 he was named Captain.[1] Captured and exchanged in 1862, Jarvis, was injured and permanently disabled at the Battle of Drewry's Bluff in 1864. After the war ended, he was on sick leave in Norfolk and in May 1865, he got probation, returning to Jarvisburg.

In 1865, Jarvis returned home and opened a general store before being named a delegate to the 1865 state constitutional convention. In 1867 Jarvis bought to entrepreneur William H. Happer, share of his small general store. More late, after get a license in June of this year, he abandoned the store and moved to Columbia.[1]

Active the Democratic Party, Jarvis was elected to the State House in 1868 and served there for four years, two of them (1870–1872) as Speaker of the House. He exercised a controlling role in the impeachment of Governor William W. Holden, reduced the cost of state government, and investigated railway frauds. In 1872, he was a Democratic elector-at-large on the Horace Greeley ticket. Jarvis also married Mary Woodson in December 1874.

An opponent of federal Reconstruction policy, Jarvis was elected the third lieutenant governor in 1876 on a ticket with Zebulon Vance. In 1879, Vance resigned the governorship to serve in the United States Senate, and Jarvis filled the vacant position. As governor, he fought against government corruption and attempted to cut taxes, the state's debt, and government control. He also completed the sale of various state railways to private companies. He established mental health services in Morganton and Goldsboro, managed the establishment of normal schools for teachers in North Carolina and helped develop the State Board of Health.[1]

He won election in his own right in 1880, defeating Daniel G. Fowle for the Democratic nomination and narrowly winning over Republican challenger Ralph Buxton. In office, Jarvis convinced the legislature to authorize construction of the North Carolina Executive Mansion, although it was not completed until 1891.[2][3] He "supported establishing a system of county superintendents of education elected by boards of education, grades of teacher certification, standards of examinations for public school teachers, and lists of recommended textbooks. Also, Funds for the mental institutions continued to increase, and the laws of North Carolina were for the first time codified and state insurance laws fully defined. Also, was built a governor's mansion".[1]

Term-limited, Jarvis stepped down as governor in 1885, but was appointed United States Minister to Brazil by President Grover Cleveland. Jarvis held this post for four years, after which he practiced law in Greenville, North Carolina. Following Senator Vance's death in 1894, Jarvis again succeeded him in office, serving as a U.S. Senator through an appointment by Gov. Elias Carr. In 1895, the state legislature, now under the control of Republicans and Populists, would not elect Jarvis to a term of his own.

In 1896, Jarvis was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, where he supported William Jennings Bryan in his last major political act. He was instrumental in the founding of what is now East Carolina University in Greenville, where the oldest residential hall on campus is named in his memory.

Jarvis reopened his law firm and in 1912, he founded a partnership with Frank Wooten.[1] He died in Greenville in 1915.


  • In addition to the ECU residence hall, a local United Methodist church and a street in Greenville are named in his memory.
  • At one time, several personal artifacts were on display at the church.

Personal life[edit]

Jarvis married Mary Woodson in December 1874.


External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Curtis H. Brogden
Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina
Succeeded by
James L. Robinson
Preceded by
Zebulon B. Vance
Governor of North Carolina
Succeeded by
Alfred M. Scales
United States Senate
Preceded by
Zebulon B. Vance
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from North Carolina
Served alongside: Matt W. Ransom
Succeeded by
Jeter C. Pritchard
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Thomas A. Osborn
United States Minister to Brazil
July 11, 1885 – November 19, 1888
Succeeded by
Robert Adams, Jr.