Alabama Governors

Arthur Pendleton Bagby

photo of portrait of Ala. Governor Arthur Pendleton Bagby




Arthur Pendleton Bagby was born in 1794 in Louisa County, Virginia. He migrated to Claiborne, Alabama in 1818 where he established a law practice in 1819. Bagby was elected to represent Monroe County in the state legislature in 1821 and continued to serve in one house or the other, until 1837 when he was elected governor. He was re-elected governor in 1839.


The Panic of 1837 resulted in a nationwide depression that persisted throughout Bagby's administration. Although Bagby tried to introduce various measures to stabilize the deteriorating financial condition of the state banks, most of his ideas were rejected by the state legislature. Despite a very brief period of stabilization that occurred during 1840, the bank crisis grew steadily worse until 1842 when Bagby's successor, Governor Benjamin Fitzpatrick, closed all of the state banks.


In addition to the problems inherent with an economic crisis, Bagby's administration also dealt with two different Indian problems. The infamous Trail of Tears that resulted in the removal of the Cherokee Indians from their Southeastern homes to the West took place in 1838. General Winfield Scott was in charge of the removal and many Alabama militia men assisted. A large number of these Cherokee Indians were removed from their homes in or traveled through northern Alabama.


South Alabama also had Indian troubles while Bagby was in office. While the tragic events that took place in north Alabama were generally peaceful, the Creek and Seminole Indians in south Alabama and northern Florida were not so docile about the loss of their homes to white settlers. Raids on white settlements in south Alabama, particularly Irwinton in Barbour County and communities in Dale and Covington counties, by groups of Indians hiding out in the Florida swamps incensed the white population of Alabama and resulted in the formation of numerous local militia companies.


Bagby also encouraged the establishment of a state penitentiary system and the chancery courts. Originally a National Republican, Bagby changed political parties in 1831 and became a Democrat, supporting Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren in their political contests.


In 1841 Bagby was elected to the unexpired U.S. Senate seat recently vacated by Clement Comer Clay. He was reelected in 1842 and served until June 1848 when President James K. Polk appointed him as minister to the Court of St. Petersburg. Bagby held this position until the end of the year when President Zachary Taylor was elected. Returning to Alabama he was appointed to the committee to codify the state statutes. Bagby resided in Camden for several years before moving to Mobile in 1856. He died of yellow fever in 1858. Bagby was married twice; once to Emily Steele, then to Anne Elizabeth Connell.


Brannon, Peter A. "Removal of Indians from Alabama," Alabama Historical Quarterly, XII (1950): 91-117.
Brantley, William H. Banking in Alabama, 1816-1860. 2 vols. 1967.
Owen, Marie B., comp. Our State--Alabama, 1927.
Owen, Thomas M. History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography , 1921.
Stewart, John Craig. The Governors of Alabama,1975.
Thornton, J. Mills, III. Politics and Power in a Slave Society: Alabama 1800-1860, 1978.
Wright, J. Leitch, Jr. Creeks and Seminoles: The Destruction and Regeneration of the Muscogulge People, 1986.