Font Size: AAA

John Motley Morehead (1796-1866)

Known as the “Father of Modern North Carolina,” John Motley Morehead was the 29th governor of the Tar Heel State from 1841-1845. 

Morehead was born in Virginia to John and Obedience Morehead on July 4, 1796. At the age of two his parents moved to Rockingham County, North Carolina. Like many other prominent political figures in the early 1800s, Morehead attended the Caldwell Institute in Greensboro and then went on to graduate from UNC in 1817. Morehead completed his education by studying law under Archibald Murphey and passing the bar exam in 1819.  Shortly afterward, he opened a law practice in Wentworth, North Carolina.

It was not long before Morehead entered the political arena.  In 1821 the young attorney was elected to represent Rockingham County in the North Carolina House of Commons. In 1826, Morehead was elected for two terms as the Representative for Guilford County in the House of Commons. In 1835, Morehead was chosen to be a delegate to the state Constitutional Convention.  While there, he fought for legislative representation based on population.

In 1840, Morehead was the gubernatorial nominee for the Whig Party and was elected to serve two terms as governor of North Carolina. Morehead was the first governor inaugurated in the new State Capitol. During his tenure Morehead promoted internal improvements, but the legislature, controlled by conservative Democrats, allowed the governor to make little headway.  The governor, in particular, encouraged the extension of railroad lines and improvements to the construction of waterways and turnpikes.

Morehead also championed education in general, supported the new public school systems, and became instrumental in establishing a school for the deaf in 1845 (the school bears his name to this day).

After leaving the office of governor, Morehead continued promoting the benefits of internal improvements. In 1850, the former governor was named as the first president of the North Carolina Railroad.  He later worked for the expansion of the railroad, built a cotton mill in Leaksville, and served on the Board of Trustees of UNC. 

Morehead decided to enter the public arena again his in 1858, when he returned to the North Carolina House as a representative.  As the Civil War approached, Morehead tried to persuade his fellow Carolinians against secession, but when the state’s secession seemed inevitable, the former governor stood behind the Old North State.  He was soon elected as a delegate for the Confederate Provincial Congress in 1861.

John Morley Morehead died on August 27, 1866, and is buried in Greensboro in the First Presbyterian Church cemetery. Morehead City, North Carolina was named for the governor when incorporated in 1860.

 


Sources:

Michael Hill, ed., The Governors of North Carolina (Raleigh, 2007); National Governors Association, Governors, North Carolina Governor John Morley Morehead, www.nga.org, (last accessed March 3, 2011); Office of the Governor, Governors of North Carolina, John Morley Morehead, http://www.governor.state.nc.us/contact/governors/johnMotleyMorehead.aspx, (last accessed March 3, 2011).

By Kellie Slappey, North Carolina History Project


See Also:

Related Categories: Governors, Civil War
Related Encyclopedia Entries: Constitution of 1835, Whig Party, Henry Toole Clark, Samuel T. Sawyer (1800 - 1865), Edward Bishop Dudley (1789 – 1855) , David Lowry Swain (1801-1868), William Alexander Graham (1804-1875), Willie P. Mangum (1792 - 1861), Asa Biggs (1811 - 1878), Matt W. Ransom (1826 - 1904), State v. Negro Will (1834) and State v. Manuel (1838), Bedford Brown (1795 - 1870), John W. Ellis (1820-1862), Bunker Hill Covered Bridge, Secession, Salem Brass Band, Confederate States Navy (in North Carolina), United States Navy (Civil War activity), James Iredell Waddell (1824-1886), CSS Neuse, USS Underwriter, Warren Winslow (1810-1862), Prelude to the Battle of Averasboro, The Battle of Averasboro-Day One, Louis Froelich and Company, Louis Froelich (1817-1873), North Carolina Button Factory, CSA Arms Factory, Ratification Debates, Peace Party (American Civil War), Braxton Bragg (1817-1876), Daniel Harvey Hill (1821-1889), Battle of Bentonville, Bryan Grimes (1828-1880), Fort Hatteras, Fort Fisher, Fort Clark, Fort Macon, Daniel Russell (1845-1908), The Impending Crisis of the South: How to Meet It, Union League, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Levi Coffin (1798 – 1877), Battle of Forks Road, Aaron McDuffie Moore (1863-1923), Harriet Jacobs (1813-1897) , Fort Anderson (Confederate), Battle of Deep Gully and Fort Anderson (Federal), James T. Leach (1805-1883), Sarah Malinda Pritchard Blalock (1839-1903), Thomas Bragg (1810-1872), Curtis Hooks Brogden (1816-1901), Zebulon Baird Vance (1830-1894), Alamance County (1849), Gates County (1779), Clay County (1861), Lenoir County (1791), Union County (1842), Teague Band (Civil War), Fort Hamby Gang (Civil War), Shelton Laurel Massacre , Parker David Robbins (1834-1917), Henry Eppes (1831-1917), Washington County (1799), Hertford County (1759), Rutherford County (1779), Granville County (1746), Salisbury Prison (Civil War), Stoneman's Raid, James City, Fort York, Thomas Clingman (1812 - 1897), St. Augustine's College, Peace College, Election Case of Joseph Abbott and Zebulon Vance, Stephen Dodson Ramseur (1837 - 1864) , Vance Birthplace, Matthew Calbraith Butler (1836-1909), Wade Hampton III (1818-1902), The Battle of Monroe's Crossroads (March 10, 1865), Carolinas Campaign (January 1865-April 1865), William Tecumseh Sherman (1820-1891), Confederate Surrender at Bennett's Place (April 17-26, 1865), Hugh Judson Kilpatrick (1836-1881) and the Carolinas Campaign, Joseph Eggleston Johnston (1807-1891) and the Carolinas Campaign
Related Commentary: Graham Brothers, Toward an Inclusive History of the Civil War: Society and the Home Front, Edward Bonekemper on the Cowardice of General McClellan, Freedmen’s Bank Served Blacks in Post-Civil War Economy
Related Lesson Plans: Discussion of the Lunsford Lane Narrative
Timeline: 1776-1835 , 1836-1865

© 2014 John Locke Foundation | 200 West Morgan St., Raleigh, NC 27601, Voice: (919) 828-3876
Website design & development by DesignHammer Media Group, LLC. Building Smarter Websites.