John Branch, Governor of North Carolina and Florida

John BranchOn November 4, 1782, John Branch, governor of North Carolina, was born in Halifax.

During the period Branch was raised in Halifax, the town was center of North Carolina’s political life. In fact, another prominent politician of the era, John Eaton, was born just a few years after Branch in the same area. Both men would go on to serve in Andrew Jackson’s cabinet and as governors of Florida.

Branch was remarkably progressive for his day. As North Carolina’s governor for three years beginning in 1817, he endorsed much of the reform agenda of Archibald D. Murphey, a leading progressive advocate who is known as North Carolina’s “father of education.” Among other things, he took steps to promote public education, initiate internal improvements and liberalize the penal code.

Initially an ally of Jackson, Branch came to be identified with John C. Calhoun and nullification in time. Branch’s opposition to Jackson contributed significantly to the rise of the Whig Party in North Carolina. At the 1835 constitutional convention, Branch even argued for the removal of religious qualifications for office and against the disfranchisement of free blacks.

Branch later moved with his family to Florida, and in 1843, was appointed governor of that territory. It was during his term in office that Florida became a state. He died in 1863 and is buried in Halifax County.

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