William Wyatt Bibb

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William Wyatt Bibb
William Wyatt Bibb.jpg
1st Governor of Alabama
In office
December 14, 1819 – July 10, 1820
Territory: March 6, 1817– December 14, 1819
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byThomas Bibb
United States Senator
from Georgia
In office
November 6, 1813 – November 9, 1816
Preceded byWilliam B. Bulloch
Succeeded byGeorge Troup
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from Georgia's at-large district
In office
January 26, 1807 – November 6, 1813
Preceded byThomas Spalding
Succeeded byAlfred Cuthbert
Member of the
Georgia House of Representatives
from Elbert County
In office
Personal details
Born(1781-10-02)October 2, 1781
Amelia County, Virginia
DiedJuly 10, 1820(1820-07-10) (aged 38)
Elmore County, Alabama
Political partyDemocratic-Republican
Spouse(s)Mary Freeman
Alma materCollege of William & Mary;
University of Pennsylvania

William Wyatt Bibb (October 2, 1781 – July 10, 1820) was a United States Senator from Georgia and the first Governor of the U.S. state of Alabama. Bibb County, Alabama, and Bibb County, Georgia, are named for him.

He was a member of the Democratic-Republican political party. Bibb served as governor of the Alabama Territory from August 1817 to December 1819, and as the first elected governor of the state of Alabama from December 1819 to his death on July 10, 1820. He is the first of only three people in U.S. History to be elected a U.S. Senator from one state and the governor of another state.

Early life[edit]

William Wyatt Bibb was born on October 2, 1781 in Amelia County, Virginia, to Captain William Bibb, an officer in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) and a member of the state legislature, the General Assembly of the newly-independent Commonwealth of Virginia, and his wife, Sally (Wyatt) Bibb.[1]

Around 1784, Bibb Sr. moved with his family south to Georgia with a large number of Virginians who accompanied General George Mathews, hero of the Battle of Brandywine in Pennsylvania. Most of the general's followers were also veterans and with their families took advantage of the new nation's offer of land bounties in lieu of pay for former soldiers. They established tobacco farms on the rich lands around the confluence of the Broad and Savannah Rivers in the newly-developing northeastern Georgia. The Bibbs are recorded as one of the earliest pioneer families in Elbert County.[1]

Bibb was probably privately educated before he went to the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia. He was awarded a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree in 1801, returned to Georgia, and began to practice medicine in Petersburg.[2] In 1803, he married Mary Freeman.

Early political career[edit]

Bibb was first elected to office at 21, as a member of the Georgia House of Representatives. Elected in 1802, he took office in 1803 and served one two-year term until 1805.[3] He was elected in 1806 as a Democratic-Republican to the Ninth United States Congress to fill a vacancy caused by the resignation of Thomas Spalding, was re-elected four times, and served until November 6, 1813.[4]

He was elected by the state legislature, as was then the practice, to the US Senate to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of William H. Crawford, a nationally-known presidential candidate. Bibb served until November 9, 1816.[5]

As a Senator in 1816, Bibb was involved in opposing the first attempt to abolish the Electoral College and have the President elected by Popular Vote, speaking very forthrightly about the advantages which slave-holding states derived from the Electoral College. He stated on the Senate floor that with Popular Vote, these states “would lose the privilege the Constitution now allows them, of votes upon three-fifths of their population other than freemen. It would be deeply injurious to them.”[6]

Governor of Alabama[edit]

US President James Monroe (1758–1831, served 1817–1825), appointed Bibb as the first governor of the newly-formed Alabama Territory (from the larger previous Mississippi Territory) in 1817. Alabama became the 22nd state on December 14, 1819. Bibb was elected governor by defeating Marmaduke Williams and receiving 8,342 votes to Williams's 7,140 votes.[7]

Bibb's primary duties were establishing the state government.[8] Huntsville was designated to be the site of the constitutional convention. The capital was chosen to be the newly-created town of Cahawba in 1820 on the Alabama frontier but moved to Tuscaloosa in 1826 and finally to the central city of Montgomery in 1846.

During Bibb's tenure, the Alabama state militia was established, and the beginnings of the state judicial system, along with the organization of and appointments to the Supreme Court of Alabama were accomplished.

Henry Hitchcock was elected the first Attorney General of Alabama and initially held the position of Secretary of State of Alabama as well. However, shortly afterward Thomas A. Rodgers was elected as the second Secretary of State of Alabama. The first session of the state legislature was held from October 25, 1819, to December 17, 1819. William R. King and John W. Walker were chosen as the first US Senators.

To date, Bibb is one of only three individuals to have served as governor of a state and as a US senator from a different state.[9] The others are Sam Houston, who (among his other political offices) served as the sixth governor of Tennessee and a US senator from Texas, and Mitt Romney, who served as the seventieth governor of Massachusetts and is currently a US senator from Utah.[9]


In 1820, Bibb was thrown from his horse during a violent thunderstorm.[10] He died from internal injuries on July 10, 1820, at 38. His brother, Thomas Bibb, was president of the State Senate and completed the rest of the term as governor.

William Bibb is buried in Coosada, Alabama. Because he was the state's first governor, his likeness appears on the Alabama Centennial half dollar, which was minted in 1921.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Daniel S. Dupre (University of North Carolina - Charlotte) (January 7, 2008). "William Wyatt Bibb (1819-20)". Encyclopedia of Alabama - Auburn University. Retrieved May 26, 2018.
  2. ^ "William Wyatt Bibb". Alabama Department ofArchives & History. Retrieved July 13, 2012.
  3. ^ "Georgia Official and Statistical Register 1975-1976". State of Georgia. p. 1484. Retrieved May 26, 2018.
  4. ^ "Georgia Official and Statistical Register 1975-1976". State of Georgia. p. 550. Retrieved May 26, 2018.
  5. ^ "Georgia Official and Statistical Register 1975-1976". State of Georgia. p. 549. Retrieved May 26, 2018.
  6. ^ Quoted in "How Has the Electoral College Survived for This Long? Resistance to eliminating it has long been connected to the idea of white supremacy" by Alexander Keyssar, New York Times, Aug. 3, 2020.[1]
  7. ^ Dupre, Daniel S.; Webb, Samuel L.; Armbrester, Margaret E. (2014). Alabama Governors : A Political History of the State. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press. p. 16. ISBN 9780817318437.
  8. ^ Abernethy, Thomas Perkins (1990). The Formative Period in Alabama, 1815-1828. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press. p. 5. ISBN 9780817352134.
  9. ^ a b "Mitt Romney Prepares for Unusual US Senate Bid | Smart Politics". editions.lib.umn.edu. Retrieved 2018-04-01.
  10. ^ William J. Northen; John Temple Graves (1910). Men of Mark in Georgia: A Complete and Elaborate History of the State from Its Settlement to the Present Time, Chiefly Told in Biographies and Autobiographies of the Most Eminent Men of Each Period of Georgia's Progress and Development. A. B. Caldwell. pp. 145–.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Georgia's at-large congressional district

January 26, 1807 – November 6, 1813
Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. senator (Class 2) from Georgia
November 6, 1813 – November 9, 1816
Served alongside: Charles Tait
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
Territorial Governor of Alabama
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Position established
Governor of Alabama
Succeeded by