10 times an Alabama governor was replaced

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – A handful of Alabama lawmakers are joining forces to give Gov. Robert Bentley the boot. “We’ve never done this before…we’ve never tried to impeach a governor…it’s going to be a process, but the process starts today,” said Representative Ed Henry Tuesday in Montgomery. It was at that press conference that Henry announced plans to start the process of impeaching Governor Robert Bentley. While it’s true that an impeachment would be a first for the state of Alabama, it would not be the first time a governor had to be replaced.

William Wyatt Bibb replaced by Thomas Bibb

1820: William Wyatt Bibb was a man of firsts. He was Alabama’s first governor – he was elected in 1819. He was also the first Alabama governor to die in office. He would pass away less than a year after his election. He would be replaced by then President of the Senate, Thomas Bibb. And in case you were wondering, yes they were brothers. Thomas served out the remainder of the 2 year term, but did not seek reelection.


Fun Fact: If you’ve studied the Constitution of Alabama you might be a bit confused by the succession of the position since Article V Section 127 states that the Lieutenant Governor would assume command. Well this case, along with the following 3 instances, happened prior to the Alabama Constitution of 1901. So in all 4 cases there was no office of Lieutenant Governor.


Gabriel Moore replaced by Samuel B. Moore (not pictured)

1831: Alabama’s 5th governor, Gabriel Moore, was appointed to the U.S. Senate so he would resign from his gubernatorial duties on March 3rd, 1831. He was replaced by President of the Senate, Samuel B. Moore. And no, unlike the Bibbs before them, these two were NOT related.

Clement Comer Clay replaced by Hugh McVay

1837: Just like Gabriel Moore, Alabama’s 8th governor, Clement Comer Clay, ended up being appointed to the U.S. Senate and resigned from his post as governor on July 16th, 1837. He was replaced by President of the Senate, Hugh McVay. McVay wouldn’t hold the position for very long though, as he would lose in that November’s election.

William James Samford replaced by William Dorsey Jelks

1900: William Dorsey Jelks would take office briefly in December of 1900 when then Governor William James Samford, was incapacitated for a few weeks due to illness. It would not be the last time Jelks would have to step in for Samford though…

1901: William Samford passed away on June 11th, 1901. Jelks would now take over the position full-time. He was even reelected, becoming the first replacement Governor to do so in the state.


Fun Fact: William Dorsey Jelks, while in office, played an integral part in the ratification of the Alabama Constitution of 1901. Under the new constitution, the office of lieutenant governor was reinstated and the term of office for the governor became four years. So when Jelks was reelected in 1902 he became the first Alabama governor to serve a 4 year term.


William Dorsey Jelks briefly replaced by Russell Cunningham

1904: Because you just can’t get enough Jelks – the man who had twice replaced a governor also once had to be replaced. Russell Cunningham, the state’s first lieutenant governor in nearly 30 years, became acting governor on April 25th, 1904 while Jelks was out west due to illness. He would hold the office until March 5th, 1905 when Jelks returned.

William W. Brandon briefly replaced by Charles McDowell (not pictured)

1924: Alabama’s 37th governor, William W. Brandon, spent 3 weeks in New York City for the 1924 Democratic Convention. Under the Constitution of 1901, if the governor is out of the state for more than 20 days, the lieutenant governor becomes acting governor. So from July 10th-11th, 1924, Charles McDowell held office.

Lurleen Wallace replaced by Albert Brewer

1968: Much like McDowell, Lt. Gov. Albert Brewer would hold the position of acting governor while then Governor Lurleen Wallace was hospitalized out of state for a period of more than 20 days. But he would ultimately become full-time governor in May of 1968 after Governor Wallace passed away.

George Wallace briefly replaced by Jere Locke Beasley

1972: Lieutenant Governor, Jere Locke Beasley, would become the acting governor of Alabama in June of 1972. He took the position while Governor George Wallace was in a Maryland hospital for more than 20 days. He was recovering from an assassination attempt by Arthur Bremer while campaigning in the state for his run at the White House.

Guy Hunt replaced by James E. Folsom, Jr.

1993: Up unto this point, changes in the office of Alabama governor have come from death, appointments, or temporary illness/change in location. Guy Hunt’s exit from office doesn’t fit in any of those categories. Hunt was reelected in 1990, but most of that second term was defined by a legal battle. He was dealing with charges of possible violations to state ethics laws. On April 22nd, 1993, the part-time preacher was convicted of illegally using campaign and inaugural funds to pay personal debts and was removed from office. Lieutenant Governor James E. Folsom, Jr., would take the office of governor. It would be the first time an Alabama governor was removed from office. It would also be the second time a Folsom took office, James’ father “Big Jim” Folsom, was a two-time governor for the state earlier in the century.

To learn more about all of Alabama’s governors, check out the Alabama Department of Archives and History.

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