William Hugh Smith

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For other people of the same name, see William H. Smith.
Located along N. Main Street (U.S. Route 431) in Wedowee, Alabama, this historic marker marks the site of the former home of William Hugh Smith.

William Hugh Smith (April 28, 1826 in Fayette County, Georgia – January 1, 1899 in Birmingham, Alabama) was the first Republican and the 21st Governor of the U.S. state of Alabama, serving from 1868 to 1870 during the period of military reconstruction. A former slave owner, he opposed secession from the union on the grounds it would imperil slave property. Practical considerations, rather than principled opposition to slavery appeared to drive his views. From 1855 to 1859 he served in the Alabama House of Representatives as a "states' rights" Democrat, but he evolved into a strong Unionist. In 1862, he fled behind Union lines and spent the rest of the war recruiting soldiers for the 1st Alabama Union Cavalry Regiment. He went with this regiment on General William Tecumseh Sherman's famous "March to the Sea". He chaired the first statewide Republican convention in 1867. He was installed as Governor by the U.S. Congress in July 1868. Although he had been elected in February 1868, he would not voluntarily take office due to the failure of the voters to ratify the 1868 constitution. A conservative once in office, he supported restoration of voting rights for ex-confederate public officials and military officers. He took only light action against the Ku Klux Klan, arguing that local law enforcement could effectively handle the situation. He promoted economic development and railroad development. He was defeated for re-election by Robert Lindsay by the narrow margin of 77,721 to 76,292. He left office under an ethical cloud of corruption regarding state aid to railroads. He remained active in the Republican Party and was appointed as a Circuit Judge in 1873 by Governor Lewis. He was a Federal District Attorney under President James A. Garfield. He died in Birmingham at the age of 72. He was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery.


Political offices
Preceded by
Wager Swayne
Governor of Alabama
Succeeded by
Robert B. Lindsay