William J. Samford

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William James Samford
31st Governor of Alabama
In office
December 1, 1900 – June 11, 1901
LieutenantWilliam D. Jelks
Preceded byJoseph F. Johnston
Succeeded byWilliam D. Jelks
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Alabama's 3rd district
In office
March 4, 1879 – March 3, 1881
Preceded byJeremiah N. Williams
Succeeded byWilliam C. Oates
Personal details
BornSeptember 16, 1844
Greenville, Georgia, U.S.
DiedJune 11, 1901 (aged 56)
Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Political partyDemocratic
SpouseCaroline Elizabeth Drake

William James Samford (September 16, 1844 – June 11, 1901) was an American attorney and politician who served as the 31st Governor of Alabama and in the United States House of Representatives.

Early life and education[edit]

William James Samford was born on September 16, 1844, in Greenville, Georgia. His father was William Flewellyn Samford, and his mother was Susan Lewis Dowdell Samford. In 1846, he moved with his parents to Chambers County, Alabama. He was educated in the public schools of Chambers and Auburn, Alabama. He then attended the East Alabama Male College (now Auburn University) before transferring to the University of Georgia.


During the American Civil War, Samford served in the Confederate States Army as a lieutenant in the 46th Alabama Infantry Regiment that fought in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Mississippi.[1] He was taken prisoner in the Battle of Champion Hill in Hinds County, Mississippi and spent eighteen months in captivity at Johnson's Island.[2]

After the Civil War, Samford began farming. In 1867, he was admitted to the Alabama State Bar and established a law practice in Opelika, Alabama. He was also an ordained minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church South.

Samford entered politics in 1872, serving as a city alderman and alternate elector for the Horace Greeley ticket. In 1874, he was a delegate to the state constitutional convention. In 1878, he was elected as a Democrat to the United States Congress, where he served for one term.

Though he took office as governor in December 1900, he missed the first few weeks of his gubernatorial term because he was out of the state receiving medical treatment. During this time, William D. Jelks, then President of the Alabama Senate, acted as governor until December 26, 1900.

After six months in office, he died on June 11, 1901, and William D. Jelks succeeded him as governor.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Samford married Caroline Elizabeth Drake in 1865. He was a devout Methodist and a licensed preacher in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.[4]


  1. ^ Alabama Governors: William James Samford, Alabama Department of Archives and History
  2. ^ Portraits of Conflict: A Photographic History of Alabama in the Civil War, by Ben H. Severance
  3. ^ Rikard, Marlene Hunt. William J. Samford (1900-01), Encyclopedia of Alabama
  4. ^ The Governors of Alabama, by John Craig Stewart, p. 147.

External links[edit]

  • United States Congress. "William J. Samford (id: S000022)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  • Encyclopedia of Alabama article on Samford
Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for Governor of Alabama
Succeeded by
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Alabama's 3rd congressional district

March 4, 1879 – March 3, 1881
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Governor of Alabama
Succeeded by