Alabama Governors

John Murphy

photo of portrait of Ala. Governor John Murphy




Alabama's fourth governor was a native of North Carolina and represented the "North Carolina Faction" in early Alabama politics. John Murphy was born ca. 1785. He attended school in South Carolina with future Alabama governor John Gayle and prominent Alabama politician James Dellet. After his graduation in 1808 he was elected clerk of the South Carolina Senate. He clerked and studied law, also serving as a trustee of the University of South Carolina from 1808-1818. In 1818 he moved to Alabama and became a planter in Monroe County. Murphy immediately entered Alabama politics as a delegate to the 1819 Constitutional Convention. He was elected to the Alabama House in 1820 and to the Alabama Senate in 1822. In 1824, Alabama Governor Israel Pickens chose Murphy to succeed him as governor and to continue to represent the interests of the "North Carolina Faction." Murphy ran unopposed and received 12,511 votes from the electorate.


The first controversy of Murphy's administration was the continued battle over the site of the seat of government. During the first legislative session, Tuscaloosa (Tuscaloosa) was chosen as the site of the capital and it was moved to Tuscaloosa from Cahaba on February 1, 1826. Other contentious topics of discussion were the Bank of the State, the removal of the Creek Indians from the state, the location of a branch of the Bank of the US in Mobile, the settlement of accounts between Mississippi and Alabama, and the survey of the boundary line between Georgia and Alabama. Though Murphy was strongly opposed to the "Tariff of Abominations," he staunchly supported President Jackson's attempts to reconcile South Carolina during the "nullification crisis." Murphy, a popular governor, was elected to a second term in 1827.


After serving as Alabama governor, Murphy ran unsuccessfully for US Congress, losing to Dixon Hall Lewis. He returned to his plantation in Clarke County but in 1833 was elected to the US Congress, defeating his former classmate James Dellet. In 1839 Dellet defeated Murphy and Murphy retired to his plantation where he died in 1841.


Brantley, William H. Three Capitals, 1947.
Owen, Thomas M. History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography, 1921.
Stewart, John Craig. The Governors of Alabama, 1975.