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Alabama Governors

Lewis Eliphalet Parsons

photo of portrait of Ala. Governor Lewis Eliphalet Parsons

 

1865-1868

 

Lewis Eliphalet Parsons was born April 28, 1817, in Boone County, NY. He moved to Talladega in 1840 where he practiced law with Alexander White. Parsons married Jane Ann Boyd of Nicholasville, Kentucky, in 1841. They had seven children. He supported Millard Fillmore in the 1856 presidential election and Stephen Douglas in 1860. In 1859 Parsons was elected to the state legislature where he advocated state aid for internal improvements. He served in the legislature again in 1863, this time opposing the establishment of a state militia.

 

In April 1865, the civil government of Alabama underwent a drastic change as a result of the surrender of the Confederate forces. General George H. Thomas, head of the Union occupation forces in north Alabama, was ordered to manage most state affairs until a provisional government was appointed. On June 21, 1865, Parsons was appointed provisional governor of Alabama by President Andrew Johnson. He was considered an excellent choice by most of the state's Unionists.

 

Parsons' first action as provisional governor was to reinstate all Alabama laws that were in force prior to January 11, 1861, with the exception of those regarding slavery. He "also ordered those men in office at the war's close to continue in their positions." [Wiggins, p. 54] Parsons worked with General Wager T. Swayne, the assistant commissioner of the Alabama Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands to reorganize the state's judicial system.

 

On August 31, 1865, Parsons ordered the election of delegates to a constitutional convention that met in Montgomery on September 12. The convention repealed the ordinance of secession, abolished slavery, repudiated the state's war debts, and ordered an election in November to choose state officials and representatives to Congress.

 

Parsons' term as provisional governor ended with the inauguration of Robert M. Patton on December 13, 1865. Parsons was then chosen to represent Alabama in the US Senate but was refused his seat by the Republican party. He remained loyal to the party, however, and from 1872-73 was speaker of the predominately Republican house. The reemergence of the Democrats in 1874 ended his political career. Parsons returned to his law practice in Talladega. He died on June 8, 1895.

 


Authorities:

Owen, Thomas M. History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography, 1921.
Stewart, John Craig. The Governors of Alabama, 1975.
Wiggins, Sarah W. "Unionist Efforts to Control Alabama, 1965-67." Alabama Historical Quarterly 30, Spring, 1968.
Wilson, Clyde E., comp. "State Militia, June 1865-December 1865." Alabama Historical Quarterly 14, 1952.