Alabama Governors

John Anthony Winston

photo  of Ala. Governor John Anthony Winston




John Anthony Winston, the fifteenth governor of Alabama, was born September 4, 1812 in Madison County, Alabama territory. He was educated at LaGrange College (where the University of North Alabama is located today) and at Cumberland College (University of Nashville) in Tennessee. Winston was a planter and a cotton commissioner. He purchased his first plantation in Sumter County in 1834. In 1844 he established the cotton commission house of John A. Winston and Co. in Mobile, an enterprise he continued until his death.


Winston's political career began in 1840 when he was elected to the House of Representatives. He was re-elected in 1842 and elected to the Senate in 1843. Winston remained in the Senate until 1853, serving as President from 1845 to 1849. During his legislative career Winston represented Alabama at the 1848 Democratic party convention in Baltimore and at the attempted secessionist convention in Nashville in 1850. Although he opposed William Lowndes Yancey's ardent state's rights platform in Baltimore, Winston's position had shifted against the popular sovereignty compromise at the Nashville meeting. He was considered a strong southern rights advocate when he was elected governor in 1853.


As governor, Winston encouraged public education and signed a bill in 1854 creating Alabama's public school system. He was not so generous, however, regarding state support for public transportation, particularly where the railroads were concerned. Winston vetoed over thirty bills and became known as the "veto governor." Although he was opposed to transportation funding in principle, Winston's actions were also guarded by the state's indebtedness due to the failure of the state bank. In 1855 Winston was re-elected by a narrow margin over the Know Nothing party candidate, George D. Shortridge.


In 1846 Winston organized a militia company to fight in the Mexican War, but the company was never called into active duty. He was more successful during the Civil War when he served as colonel of the Eighth Alabama Infantry Regiment. This unit was involved in the Peninsula campaign, most notably the Battle of Seven Pines. A strict disciplinarian, Winston was not well liked by his men.


Following the war Winston served as a delegate to the 1865 Alabama Constitutional Convention. He was elected to the US Senate in 1867 but was disenfranchised when he refused to take the oath of allegiance.


Winston married Mary Agnes Walker in 1832 by whom he had one daughter, also named Mary Agnes. His first wife died in 1842, and he later married Mary W. Logwood. This marriage ended in divorce in 1850. Winston died in Mobile in December, 1871.


Alabama Acts. 68. pp.99-101, 1850.
Owen, Thomas M. History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography, 1921.
Owen, Thomas M., Jr. "John Anthony Winston--Fighter: A Chapter in the Romance of Alabama History", (Unpublished manuscript ADAH).
Stewart, John Craig. The Governors of Alabama, 1975.