Governors of Virginia

The following list includes all governors, lieutenant governors, presidents of the Council, and other officials who are known to have served as chief executive of Virginia, whether by appointment, by election, or as temporary substitutes for the regularly chosen executives. The list includes those who held the royal commission as governor but did not go to Virginia, as well as those who, under a variety of titles, actually discharged the governor's duties in Virginia. Gaps in the records make it impossible to give an exact date for the beginning and end of every administration. Where there is any uncertainty, an approximate date is given. Beginning with the administration of Governor Henry Lee in 1791, party affiliations are included at the end of the service date to reflect the governor's party affiliation at the time of election. In addition, life dates and place of residence at the time of election are also included. If the area of residence is now an independent city but was not at the time of election, the county is also included (for example: Winchester, Frederick County). MORE...

 

Governors under the Virginia Company of London, 1607–1624

The chief executive of Virginia during the first two years of the colony's existence was the president of the Council, who was chosen by the Council at Jamestown. With the appointment of Sir Thomas Gates, the Virginia Company of London began naming the governor. In the governor's absence, a deputy performed the functions of the office.

  • Edward Maria Wingfield (ca. 1560–1613), president of the Council, May 14–September 10, 1607.
  • John Ratcliffe (d. winter 1609–1610), president of the Council, September 10, 1607–July 22, 1608.
  • Matthew Scrivener (d. 1609), president of the Council, July 22–September 10, 1608.
  • John Smith (ca. 1580–1631), president of the Council, September 10, 1608–September 1609.
  • George Percy (1580–ca. 1632), president of the Council, September 1609–May 23, 1610.
  • Sir Thomas Gates (ca. 1560–1622), governor, May 23–June 10, 1610.
  • Thomas West, baron De La Warr (1577–1618), governor, in Virginia June 10, 1610–March 28, 1611. Held title until his death, June 7, 1618; represented for most of his term by deputies.
  • George Percy (1580–ca. 1632), deputy governor under De La Warr, March 29–May 19, 1611.
  • Sir Thomas Dale (ca. 1565–1619), deputy governor under De La Warr, May 19–August 1611.
  • Sir Thomas Gates (ca. 1560–1622), lieutenant governor under De La Warr, August 1611–March 1614.
  • Sir Thomas Dale (ca. 1565–1619), deputy governor under De La Warr, March 1614–April 1616.
  • George Yeardley (bap. 1588–1627), deputy governor under De La Warr, April 1616–May 15, 1617.
  • Samuel Argall (bap. 1580–1626), deputy governor under De La Warr, May 15, 1617–April 1619.
  • Sir George Yeardley (bap. 1588–1627), governor, April 18, 1619–November 18, 1621.
  • Sir Francis Wyatt (ca. 1588–1644), governor, November 18, 1621–May 24, 1624; last governor appointed by the Virginia Company, was continued in office by James I after revocation of the company's charter in 1624.

Governors under the Crown, 1624–1652

Unless otherwise noted, all governors during this period were appointed by the Crown.

  • Sir Francis Wyatt (ca. 1588–1644), governor, May 24, 1624–May 1626.
  • Sir George Yeardley (bap. 1588–1627), governor, June 1626–November 12, 1627.
  • Francis West (1586–1634), governor, elected by the Council, November 14, 1627–February 1629.
  • John Pott (d. before 1642), governor, elected by the Council, March 5, 1629–March 1630.
  • Sir John Harvey (d. ca. 1646), governor, March 1630–May 7, 1635.
  • John West (1590–1659), governor, elected by the Council, May 7, 1635–January 18, 1637.
  • Sir John Harvey (d. ca. 1646), governor, January 18, 1637–November 1639.
  • Sir Francis Wyatt (ca. 1588–1644), governor, November 1639–February 1642.
  • Sir William Berkeley (1605–1677), governor, February 1642–March 12, 1652; resident in Virginia except for the period June 1644–June 7, 1645, when he was absent on a voyage to England. Relinquished his office when Virginia submitted to Parliament in 1652.
  • Richard Kemp (1600–1649), governor, acted during Berkeley's absence, June 1644–June 7, 1645.

Governors under the Commonwealth of England, 1652–1660

During this period, in which Virginia was virtually self-governing, all governors were elected by the General Assembly.

  • Richard Bennett (bap. 1609–1675), governor, April 30, 1652–March 31, 1655.
  • Edward Digges (1620–1675), governor, March 31, 1655–December 1656.
  • Samuel Mathews (ca. 1630–1660), governor, December 1656–January 1660.
  • Sir William Berkeley (1605–1677), governor, March 1660–by October 1660, elected by the assembly.

Governors under the Crown, 1660–1775

After the restoration of the English monarchy, the governors were again appointed by the Crown. Many of these, particularly in the eighteenth century, never went to Virginia and were represented by deputies, usually designated as lieutenant governors. When there was no governor or lieutenant governor in residence, the functions of the office were performed by the president, or senior member, of the Council.

  • Sir William Berkeley (1605–1677), governor, by October 1660–April 27, 1677; resident in Virginia except for the period April 30, 1661–November 1662, when he was absent on a voyage to England. Recalled in 1677.
  • Francis Moryson (before 1628–ca. 1681), lieutenant governor, acted during Berkeley's absence, April 30, 1661–November 1662.
  • Thomas Culpeper, baron Culpeper of Thoresway (1635–1689), governor, July 20, 1677–August 1683; resident in Virginia May 10–August 11, 1680, and December 1682–May 22, 1683; represented during rest of term by deputy.
  • Herbert Jeffreys (d. 1678), appointed lieutenant governor after Berkeley's recall, served April 27, 1677–December 17, 1678. Died in office.
  • Sir Henry Chicheley (1615–1683), deputy governor under Culpeper, December 30, 1678–May 10, 1680, and August 11, 1680–December 1682.
  • Nicholas Spencer (ca. 1638–1689), president of the Council, May 22, 1683–February 21, 1684.
  • Francis Howard, baron Howard of Effingham (bap. 1643–1695), governor, September 28, 1683–March 1, 1692; in Virginia February 21, 1684–February 1689, except for brief absences in New York during the summers of 1684 and 1687; represented during those intervals and for the remainder of his term by deputies.
  • Nathaniel Bacon Sr. (bap. 1620–1692), president of the Council, acted during Effingham's absences, June–September 1684 and July–September 1687; also served February 1689–June 3, 1690.
  • Francis Nicholson (1655–1728), lieutenant governor, deputy to Effingham, June 3, 1690–September 20, 1692.
  • Sir Edmund Andros (1637–1714), governor, September 20, 1692–December 1698; in Virginia, except for a brief absence in Maryland, September–October 1698.
  • Ralph Wormeley (1650–1701), president of the Council, acted during Andros's absence, September–October 1698.
  • Francis Nicholson (1655–1728), governor, December 9, 1698–August 15, 1705; in Virginia except for brief absences in 1700, 1703, and 1704.
  • William Byrd (1652–1704), president of the Council, acted during Nicholson's absences, September–October 24, 1700, April–June 1703, and August–September 1704.
  • Edward Nott (1657–1706), governor, August 15, 1705–August 23, 1706. Died in office.
  • Edmund Jenings (1659–1727), president of the Council, August 27, 1706–June 10, 1708.
  • Robert Hunter (1666–1734), governor, April 22, 1707–September 1709. Captured by the French on his way to Virginia and never served in the colony.
  • Edmund Jennings (1659–1727), lieutenant governor, deputy to Hunter, June 10, 1708–June 23, 1710.
  • George Hamilton, Earl of Orkney (1666–1737), governor, February 18, 1710–January 29, 1737. Never went to Virginia and represented there by deputies.
  • Alexander Spotswood (1676–1740), lieutenant governor, deputy to Orkney, June 23, 1710–September 27, 1722.
  • Hugh Drysdale (ca. 1670–1726), lieutenant governor, deputy to Orkney, September 27, 1722–July 22, 1726. Died in office.
  • Robert Carter (ca.1664–1732), president of the Council, August 1, 1726–September 11, 1727.
  • Sir William Gooch (1681–1751), lieutenant governor, deputy to Orkney and to Albemarle, September 11, 1727–August 1749; in Virginia except for the period October 15, 1740–July 1741, when he was absent on the military expedition against Cartagena.
  • James Blair (ca. 1655–1743), president of the Council, acted during Gooch's absence, October 15, 1740–July 1741.
  • William Anne Keppel, Earl of Albemarle (1702–1754), governor, October 6, 1737–December 22, 1754. Never went to Virginia and was represented by deputies.
  • Thomas Lee (1690–1750), president of the Council, September 4, 1749–November 14, 1750. Died in office.
  • Lewis Burwell (1710–1756), president of the Council, November 21, 1750–November 21, 1751.
  • Robert Dinwiddie (1692–1770), lieutenant governor, deputy to Albemarle and to Loudoun, November 21, 1751–January 1758.
  • John Campbell, Earl of Loudoun (1705–1782), governor, March 8, 1756–July 1759. Never went to Virginia and was represented by deputies.
  • John Blair (ca. 1687–1771), president of the Council, January 12–June 7, 1758.
  • Francis Fauquier (1703–1768), lieutenant governor, deputy to Loudoun and to Amherst, June 7, 1758–March 3, 1768. Died in office.
  • Sir Jeffery Amherst (1717–1797), governor, September 25, 1759–July 1768. Never went to Virginia and was represented by deputies.
  • John Blair (ca. 1687–1771), president of the Council, March 4–October 26, 1768.
  • Norborne Berkeley, Baron de Botetourt (1717–1770), governor, October 26, 1768–October 15, 1770. Died in office.
  • William Nelson (1711–1772), president of the Council, October 15, 1770–September 25, 1771.
  • John Murray, Earl of Dunmore (1732–1809), governor, September 25, 1771–June 1775. Dunmore left Williamsburg on June 8, 1775, and sought refuge aboard a British warship. After Dunmore's withdrawal, executive functions were performed by the eleven-man Committee of Safety, chaired by Edmund Pendleton, which was established on August 19, 1775 by Virginia's third revolutionary convention. The committee functioned from the date of its creation through July 5, 1776.

Governors under the Commonwealth, 1776–1865

Under the Constitution of 1776, the General Assembly elected Virginia's governors for one-year terms. No governor could serve more than three consecutive terms or be elected again until after an interval of four years. When the office became vacant by death or resignation, the president or senior member of the Council of State acted as governor until the assembly was able to choose a successor. The Constitution of 1830 left the election of the governor with the General Assembly but changed the term of office to three years with no eligibility for immediate reelection. Since the adoption of the Constitution of 1851, the voters have elected the governors for four-year terms with no eligibility for immediate reelection. The exception is the period Reconstruction, 1865–1870, when the commanding general of the military district of Virginia named the governor.

  • Patrick Henry (1736–1799), from Hanover County, July 6, 1776–June 1, 1779.
  • Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), from Albemarle County, June 2, 1779–June 3, 1781.
  • William Fleming (1729–1795), from Botetourt County, member of the Council of State acting as governor, June 4–12, 1781.
  • Thomas Nelson (1738–1789), from Yorktown, York County, June 12–November 22, 1781.
  • David Jameson (after 1720–1793), from Yorktown, York County, member of the Council of State acting as governor, November 22–30, 1781.
  • Benjamin Harrison (1726–1791), from Charles City County, December 1, 1781–November 30, 1784.
  • Patrick Henry (1736–1799), then resident in Henry County, November 30, 1784–November 30, 1786.
  • Edmund Randolph (1753–1813), from Henrico County, November 30, 1786–November 12, 1788.
  • Beverley Randolph (1754–1797), from Cumberland County, November 12, 1788–December 1, 1791.
  • Henry Lee (1756–1818), from Westmoreland County, December 1, 1791–December 1, 1794, Federalist.
  • Robert Brooke (1751–1800), from Spotsylvania County, December 1, 1794–November 30, 1796, Democratic-Republican.
  • James Wood (1741–1813), from Frederick County, November 30, 1796–December 6, 1799, Federalist.
  • Hardin Burnley (1761–1809), from Orange County, member of the Council of State acting as governor, December 7–9, 1799.
  • John Pendleton (ca. 1749–1806), from Hanover County, member of the Council of State acting as governor, December 11–19, 1799.
  • James Monroe (1758–1831), from Albemarle County, December 19, 1799–December 24, 1802, Democratic-Republican.
  • John Page (1744–1808), from Gloucester County, December 24, 1802–December 11, 1805,Democratic-Republican.
  • William H. Cabell (1722–1853), from Amherst County, December 11, 1805–December 12, 1808, Democratic-Republican.
  • John Tyler (1747–1813), from Charles City County, December 12, 1808–January 15, 1811, Democratic-Republican. Resigned.
  • George William Smith (1762–1811), from Richmond, Henrico County, member of the Council of State acting as governor, January 15–19, 1811, Democratic-Republican.
  • James Monroe (1758–1831), from Albemarle County, January 19–April 3, 1811, Democratic-Republican. Resigned.
  • George William Smith (1762–1811), from Richmond, Henrico County, member of the Council of State acting as governor, April 3–December 6, 1811; governor, December 6–26, 1811, Democratic-Republican. Died in the Richmond Theatre fire.
  • Peyton Randolph (ca. 1778–1828), from Richmond, Henrico County, member of the Council of State acting as governor, December 27, 1811–January 4, 1812, Democratic-Republican.
  • James Barbour (1775–1842), from Orange County, January 4, 1812–December 11, 1814, Democratic-Republican.
  • Wilson Cary Nicholas (1761–1820), from Albemarle County, December 11, 1814–December 11, 1816, Democratic-Republican.
  • James Patton Preston (1774–1843), from Montgomery County, December 11, 1816–December 11, 1819, Democratic-Republican.
  • Thomas Mann Randolph (1768–1828), from Albemarle County, December 11, 1819–December 11, 1822, Democratic-Republican.
  • James Pleasants (1769–1836), from Goochland County, December 11, 1822–December 11, 1825, Democratic-Republican.
  • John Tyler (1790–1862), from Charles City County, December 11, 1825–March 4, 1827, Democratic-Republican. Resigned.
  • William Branch Giles (1762–1830), from Amelia County, March 4, 1827–March 4, 1830, Democratic-Republican.
  • John Floyd (1783–1837), from Montgomery County, March 4, 1830–March 31, 1834, Democrat.
  • Littleton Waller Tazewell (1774–1860), from Norfolk, Norfolk County, March 31, 1834–March 30, 1836, no party affiliation. Resigned.
  • Wyndham Robertson (1803–1888), from Richmond, Henrico County, member of the Council of State acting as governor, March 30, 1836–March 31, 1837, Whig.
  • David Campbell (1779–1859), from Washington County, March 31, 1837–March 31, 1840, Whig.
  • Thomas Walker Gilmer (1802–1844), from Albemarle County, March 31, 1840–March 20, 1841, Whig. Resigned.
  • John Mercer Patton (1797–1858), from Richmond, Henrico County, member of the Council of State acting as governor, March 20–31, 1841, Whig.
  • John Rutherfoord (1792–1866), from Richmond, Henrico County, member of the Council of State acting as governor, March 31, 1841–March 31, 1842, Democrat.
  • John Munford Gregory (1804–1888), from James City County, member of the Council of State acting as governor, March 31, 1842–January 5, 1843, Whig.
  • James McDowell (1795–1851), from Rockbridge County, January 5, 1843–January 1, 1846, Democrat.
  • William Smith (1797–1887), from Fauquier County, January 1, 1846–January 1, 1849, Democrat.
  • John Buchanan Floyd (1806–1863), from Washington County, January 1, 1849–January 1, 1852, Democrat.
  • Joseph Johnson (1785–1877), from Harrison County (now West Virginia), January 1, 1852–January 1, 1856, Democrat. The first governor elected by popular vote.
  • Henry Alexander Wise (1806–1876), from Accomack County, January 1, 1856–January 1, 1860, Democrat.
  • John Letcher (1813–1884), from Rockbridge County, January 1, 1860–January 1, 1864, Democrat.
  • William Smith (1797–1887), from Fauquier County, January 1, 1864–May 9, 1865, Democrat. Smith did not formally surrender his office until May 20.

Governor under the Restored Government, 1861–1865

During the American Civil War (1861–1865), Virginia had two state governments, one at Richmond, under the Confederate States of America; and the other, first at Wheeling, (until West Virginia became a state in 1863) and then at Alexandria, under the United States of America.

  • Francis Harrison Pierpont (1814–1899), from Marion County (now West Virginia), governor of Restored government at Wheeling, June 20, 1861–August 28, 1863; governor of the Restored government at Alexandria, August 28, 1863–May 9, 1865, Unionist.

Governors under the Commonwealth, 1865–

Between 1934 and 1958 the terms of the commonwealth's executive officers expired the day prior to the inauguration of their successors; thus for a twenty-four-year period the dates of term expiration and initiation do not agree. Until the General Assembly in 1956 remedied the discrepancy, with the voters' later approval of a constitutional amendment to take effect in 1958, Virginia was without an executive administration for approximately a half-day each inaugural year.

  • Francis Harrison Pierpont (1814–1899), from Marion County (now West Virginia), provisional governor, May 9, 1865–April 4, 1868, Republican.
  • Henry Horatio Wells (1823–1900), a native of New York but resident in Alexandria County, provisional governor, April 4, 1868–September 21, 1869, Republican.
  • Gilbert Carlton Walker (1833–1885), a native of New York but resident in the city of Norfolk, provisional governor, September 21–December 31, 1869; governor, January 1, 1870–January 1, 1874, Republican.
  • James Lawson Kemper (1823–1895), from Madison County, January 1, 1874–January 1, 1878, Conservative.
  • Frederick William Mackey Holliday (1828–1899), from Frederick County, January 1, 1878–January 1, 1882, Conservative.
  • William Evelyn Cameron (1842–1927), from the city of Petersburg, January 1, 1882–January 1, 1886, Readjuster.
  • Fitzhugh Lee (1835–1905), from Stafford County, January 1, 1886–January 1, 1890, Democrat.
  • Philip Watkins McKinney (1832–1899), from Buckingham County, January 1, 1890–January 1, 1894, Democrat.
  • Charles Triplett O'Ferrall (1840–1905), from Rockingham County, January 1, 1894–January 1, 1898, Democrat.
  • James Hoge Tyler (1846–1925), from Pulaski County, January 1, 1898–January 1, 1902, Democrat.
  • Andrew Jackson Montague (1862–1937), from the city of Danville, January 1, 1902–February 1, 1906, Democrat.
  • Claude Augustus Swanson (1862–1939), from Pittsylvania County, February 1, 1906–February 1, 1910, Democrat.
  • William Hodges Mann (1843–1927), from Nottoway County, February 1, 1910–February 1, 1914, Democrat.
  • Henry Carter Stuart (1855–1933), from Russell County, February 1, 1914–February 1, 1918, Democrat.
  • Westmoreland Davis (1859–1942), from Loudoun County, February 1, 1918–February 1, 1922, Democrat.
  • Elbert Lee Trinkle (1876–1939), from Wythe County, February 1, 1922–February 1, 1926, Democrat.
  • Harry Flood Byrd (1887–1966), from the city of Winchester, February 1, 1926–January 15, 1930, Democrat.
  • John Garland Pollard (1871–1937), from the city of Williamsburg, January 15, 1930–January 16, 1934, Democrat.
  • George Campbell Peery (1873–1952), from Tazewell County, January 17, 1934–January 18, 1938, Democrat.
  • James Hubert Price (1882–1943), from the city of Richmond, January 19, 1938–January 20, 1942, Democrat.
  • Colgate Whitehead Darden Jr. (1897–1981), from the city of Norfolk, January 21, 1942–January 15, 1946, Democrat.
  • William Munford Tuck (1896–1983), from South Boston, Halifax County, January 16, 1946–January 17, 1950, Democrat.
  • John Stewart Battle (1890–1972), from the city of Charlottesville, January 18, 1950–January 19, 1954, Democrat.
  • Thomas Bahnson Stanley (1890–1970), from Henry County, January 20, 1954–January 11, 1958, Democrat.
  • James Lindsay Almond Jr. (1898–1986), from the city of Roanoke, January 11, 1958–January 13, 1962, Democrat.
  • Albertis Sydney Harrison Jr. (1907–1995), from Brunswick County, January 13, 1962–January 15, 1966, Democrat.
  • Mills Edwin Godwin Jr. (1914–1999), from Nansemond County (now the city of Suffolk), January 15, 1966–January 17, 1970, Democrat.
  • Abner Linwood Holton Jr. (1923– ), from the city of Roanoke, January 17, 1970–January 12, 1974, Republican.
  • Mills Edwin Godwin Jr. (1914–1999), from the city of Suffolk, January 12, 1974–January 14, 1978, Republican.
  • John Nichols Dalton (1931–1986), from the city of Radford, January 14, 1978–January 16, 1982, Republican.
  • Charles Spittal Robb (1939– ), from Fairfax County, January 16, 1982–January 11, 1986, Democrat.
  • Gerald Lee Baliles (1940– ), from the city of Richmond, January 11, 1986–January 13, 1990, Democrat.
  • Lawrence Douglas Wilder (1931– ), from the city of Richmond, January 13, 1990–January 15, 1994, Democrat.
  • George Felix Allen (1953– ), from Albemarle County, January 15, 1994–January 17, 1998, Republican.
  • James Stuart Gilmore III (1949– ), from the city of Richmond, January 17, 1998–January 12, 2002, Republican.
  • Mark Robert Warner (1954– ), from the city of Alexandria, January 12, 2002–January 14, 2006, Democrat.
  • Timothy Michael Kaine (1958– ), from the city of Richmond, January 14, 2006–January 16, 2010, Democrat.
  • Robert Francis McDonnell (1954– ), from the city of Virginia Beach, January 16, 2010–January 11, 2014, Republican.
  • Terence Richard McAuliffe (1957– ), from Fairfax County, January 11, 2014– , Democrat.
Further Reading
Salmon, Emily J. and Edward D. C. Campbell Jr., eds. The Hornbook of Virginia History: A Ready-Reference Guide to the Old Dominion's People, Places, and Past. Fourth Edition. Richmond, Virginia: The Library of Virginia, 1994.
Cite This Entry
  • APA Citation:

    The Hornbook of Virginia History. Governors of Virginia. (2014, January 21). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Governors_of_Virginia.

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    The Hornbook of Virginia History. "Governors of Virginia." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 21 Jan. 2014. Web. READ_DATE.

First published: January 31, 2011 | Last modified: January 21, 2014


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