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Alabama Governors

Benjamin Fitzpatrick

photo of portrait of Ala. Governor Benjamin Fitzpatrick

 

1841-1843
1843-1845

 

Benjamin Fitzpatrick was born in Greene County, Georgia, on June 30, 1802. Orphaned at the age of seven, he was raised by an elder sister and brothers. In 1816 he moved to Alabama to manage land that his brothers owned on the Alabama River. He served as deputy under the first sheriff of Autauga County and read law in the office of Nimrod E. Benson in Montgomery where he was admitted to the bar before age twenty. In 1819 Fitzpatrick was elected solicitor of the Montgomery circuit and was reelected in 1822. In 1823 he set up a law practice in Montgomery and concerned himself with that until 1827, when he retired to his plantation in Autauga County.

 

Fitzpatrick remained in retirement until 1837 when Governor Clay resigned his office to enter the US Senate. When the democratic members of the legislature met to make the nomination for Clay's replacement, the names of Bagby and Fitzpatrick were both proposed, with Bagby winning by only a few votes. In 1839 Fitzpatrick was placed at the head of the democratic electoral ticket and in 1841 he was elected governor of Alabama, defeating James W. McClung of Madison. In 1843 he was reelected without any opposition and in 1845 he retired from the office of governor.

 

During Fitzpatrick's term, Coffee County was created and the towns of Troy and Tuskegee were incorporated. His major concern throughout his administration was the state banking system. Mismanagement and local abuses had put the banks deeply in debt and because the state was liable for the indebtedness of the bank, it found itself on the brink of financial ruin.

 

In the 1841 election, Fitzpatrick ran on the bank issue, opposing the state banks and their political managers. In 1842 the legislature began to act on Fitzpatrick's proposal of liquidating the bank. He appointed a commission to examine the bank's accounts and to adjust bank affairs. In 1845 the bank's charter was not renewed, however, the final legislature in Fitzpatrick's term voted a resolution of confidence in the bank and refused to accept liquidation as the final solution. When Fitzpatrick retired from office, the legislature passed a resolution commending him for his actions in the bank matter.

 

When US Senator Dixon H. Lewis died in 1848, Governor Chapman appointed Fitzpatrick to fill the vacancy. In 1853 Governor Collier also appointed Fitzpatrick a US Senator when William R. King resigned to become vice-president. The Alabama Senate elected him to a full term in 1855. He was chosen president pro tempore of the US Senate in the absence of the vice-president, and served in that position from December 7, 1857 to June 12, 1860. At the 1860 democratic convention he was nominated for the vice-presidency on the ticket with Stephen A. Douglas, but declined the nomination.

 

As a senator Fitzpatrick opposed secession, however, when Alabama seceded from the union he left the senate, returned to Alabama, and supported the Confederacy. After the war he was arrested as a traitor and placed in a northern prison. He was released in time to represent Autauga County in the Alabama constitutional convention where he was unanimously elected its president. His work at the convention was his last public service, for he was disfranchised shortly afterward. He retired to his plantation one last time where he died November 25, 1869.

 

View the only known photograph of Benjamin Fitzpatrick.
Authorities:
Owen, Thomas M. History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography , 1921.
Stewart, John Craig. The Governors of Alabama, 1975.