Alabama Governors

Reuben Chapman

photo of portrait of Ala. Governor Reuben Chapman




Reuben Chapman, Alabama's thirteenth governor, served from December 6, 1847 to December 17, 1849. He was born ca. 1800 in Caroline County, Virginia. In 1824 Chapman moved to Huntsville, Alabama, where he studied law in the office of his brother Samuel. Reuben was admitted to the bar in 1825 and practiced for a year in Huntsville. He then moved to Morgan County where he was elected to the US Congress in 1835, a position Chapman held until 1847 when he was nominated without solicitation to run for Governor of Alabama on the Democratic ticket. He defeated Whig candidate, Nicholas Davis.


During Chapman's administration a state geologist was appointed to explore Alabama's mineral and ore deposits, the Mexican War ended, and the debate over slavery grew more pronounced. The major issue with which Chapman dealt, however, continued to be the financial solvency of the state. He was successful in establishing efficient financial practices that helped offset the damage done to the state's economy by the mismanagement and subsequent failure of the state's bank.


After his term in office concluded, Chapman attempted to retire from politics and moved to Huntsville in 1850. His retirement was short-lived, however, for in 1855 the Democratic party demanded that he run for the state legislature against American party candidate, Jeremiah Clemens, a race that Chapman won.


In 1860 the former governor attended the Democratic convention in Baltimore, held after the party split in Charleston. Chapman, a conservative, futilely attempted to reconcile the northern and southern factions of the party. His last official duty was to serve as an elector for Jefferson Davis in 1862. During the Civil War, Chapman's home was burned, and he was imprisoned by Union troops. He continued to live in Huntsville following the war until his death in 1882.


DeLand, T. A. and A. Davis Smith. Northern Alabama: Historical and Biographical Illustrated, 1888.
Owen, Thomas McAdory. History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography, 1921.
Stewart, John Craig. The Governors of Alabama, 1975.