Make That 20 Of 26 N.C. Governors Who Were Lawyers, Too

By Russell Rawlings

The February 2017 edition of North Carolina Lawyer magazine acknowledged the inauguration of Roy Cooper, a lawyer and member of the North Carolina Bar Association, as North Carolina’s 75th governor.

The article also denoted an impressive statistic regarding the frequency with which lawyers have held this state’s highest office since the establishment of the NCBA. Since 1899, it was reported, 19 lawyers and only seven non-lawyers have served as governor.

Robert Brodnax Glenn, photo courtesy of the State Archives of North Carolina

That is incorrect.

Actually, 20 lawyers and only six non-lawyers have held the state’s highest office during the 118-year history of the NCBA. Correcting the lawyer designations in the following list of N.C. governors, derived from the NCBA’s centennial history book, Robert Brodnax Glenn was also an attorney.

He was, in fact, a United States Attorney, appointed by President Grover Cleveland in 1893. Glenn served as governor from 1905-09 and practiced law in Winston-Salem with Glenn & Glenn. The firm traces its history to 1876 and will be more familiar to most folks under its current nameplate: Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice.

Governors of the State of North Carolina

(Lawyers in boldface)

Roy Asberry Cooper III,  2017-

Patrick McCrory, 2013-2017

Beverly Eaves Perdue, 2009-2013

Michael F. Easley,  2001-2009      

James Baxter Hunt Jr., 1993-2001

James Grubbs Martin, 1985-1993

James Baxter Hunt Jr., 1977-1985      

James E. Holshouser Jr., 1973-1977      

Robert Walter Scott, 1969-1973

Dan Killian Moore, 1965-1969      

Terry Sanford, 1961-1965      

Luther Hartwell Hodges, 1954-1961

William B. Umstead, 1953-1954

William Kerr Scott, 1949-1953

Robert Gregg Cherry, 1945-1949

Melville Broughton, 1941-1945

Clyde Roark Hoey, 1937-1941

John C.B. Ehringhaus, 1933-1937

Oliver Max Gardner, 1929-1933

Angus Wilton McLean, 1925-1929

Cameron Morrison, 1921-1925

Thomas Walter Bickett, 1917-1921

Locke Craig, 1913-1917

William Walton Kitchin, 1909-1913

Robert Brodnax Glenn, 1905-1909

Charles Brantley Aycock, 1901-1905

Daniel Lindsay Russell Jr., 1897-1901

Elias Carr, 1893-1897

Thomas Michael Holt, 1891-1893

Daniel Gould Fowle, 1889-1891

Alfred Moore Scales, 1885-1889

Thomas Jordan Jarvis, 1879-1885

Zebulon Baird Vance, 1877-1879

Curtis Hooks Brogden, 1874-1877

Tod Robinson Caldwell, 1870-1874

William Woods Holden, 1868-1870

Jonathan Worth, 1865-1868

William Woods Holden, 1865

Zebulon Baird Vance, 1862-1865

Henry Toole Clark, 1861-1862

John Willis Ellis, 1859-1861

Thomas Bragg, 1855-1859

Warren Winslow, 1854-1855

David Settle Reid, 1851-1854

Charles Manly, 1849-1851

William Alexander Graham, 1845-1849

John Motley Morehead, 1841-1845

Edward Bishop Dudley, 1836-1841

Richard Dobbs Spaight Jr., 1835-1836

David Lowry Swain, 1832-1835

Montfort Stokes, 1830-1832

John Owen, 1828-1830

James Iredell Jr., 1827-1828

Hutchins Gordon Burton, 1824-1827

Gabriel Holmes, 1821-1824

Jesse Franklin, 1820-1821

John Branch, 1817-1820

William Miller, 1814-1817

William Hawkins, 1811-1814

Benjamin Smith, 1810-1811

David Stone, 1808-1810

Benjamin Williams, 1807-1808

Nathaniel Alexander, 1805-1807

James Turner, 1802-1805

Benjamin Williams, 1799-1802

William Richardson Davie, 1798-1799

Samuel Ashe, 1795-1798

Richard Dobbs Spaight Sr., 1792-1795

Alexander Martin, 1789-1792

Samuel Johnston,1787-1789

Richard Caswell, 1784-1787

Alexander Martin, 1782-1785

Thomas Burke, 1781-1782

Abner Nash, 1780-1781

Richard Caswell, 1776-1780

Sources: NCpedia website and “Seeking Liberty and Justice: A History of the North Carolina Bar Association – 1899-1999”