Tar Heels and the U.S. Constitution

Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States by Howard Chandler Christy. Richard Dobbs Spaight is pictured signing the document.  William Blount is standing directly behind him, and High Williamson is standing down and to the left on the stairs.

On September 17, 1787—that’s 225 years ago today—39 men signed the United States Constitution and, many would argue, ushered in a whole new era in history. In celebration of this anniversary, we take a look at the North Carolinians who signed a document that would change the world

Our Three Signers

Born near Windsor in Bertie County, William Blount only reluctantly signed the Constitution and did not actively take part in the convention. Blount later went onto serve as U.S. senator from Tennessee, and as a governor of that state.

North Carolina’s delegates to the federal Constitutional ConventionA composite image of North Carolina’s five delegates to federal Constitutional Convention. Image from the North Carolina Museum of History.

After the Revolutionary War, Richard Dobbs Spaight of New Bern served as a member (and eventually speaker) of the state House of Commons and as a member of the Continental Congress. Taking an active role at the federal Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, he also argued forcefully for its adoption at the state convention in Hillsborough. He later served as a North Carolina governor and state senator.

Hugh Williamson was surgeon general of the North Carolina militia during the Revolutionary War and a man of many talents. Over the course of his life he was a licensed Presbyterian preacher, professor of mathematics and physician. Like Spaight, Williamson was an active participant in the convention, serving on five committees and eloquently arguing for the document’s adoption.

Two More Tar Heel Delegates

Two other men from North Carolina were delegates to the Constitutional Convention, but didn’t ultimately sign the document. William Richardson Davie—perhaps best known as the father of UNC and for being a North Carolina governor—was called away on personal business and never returned. Alexander Martin—also a North Carolina governor—left before the third draft was completed.

Learn More About Colonial and Revolutionary Era North Carolina

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