William C.C. Claiborne
1775 - 1817
elected governor, William Charles Cole Claiborne, was actually born in 1775 in
Sussex County, Virginia. Claiborne was educated at Richmond Academy and briefly
attended William and Mary College. Claiborne worked for the Clerk of the U.S.
House of Representatives while studying law and in 1794 he moved to the
frontier, Tennessee, to open a law practice.
In Tennessee he
helped write the state constitution and was appointed the new state's supreme
court. In 1797 he resigned from the Tennessee supreme court to run for the U.S.
House of Representatives. Claiborne was a Democratic Republican and cast his
vote for Jefferson in the disputed presidential election. Jefferson rewarded
Claiborne with the appointment to be governor of the then Mississippi Territory.
In 1804 he appointed Claiborne to be Territorial Governor of Louisiana.
In 1811 he earned
the respect of native Creoles with his quick suppression of a slave insurrection
near Laplace. The Creoles and Cajuns had already appreciated Claiborne's
requirement that all state business be conducted in both French and English.
In 1812 he was
elected the first Governor of the State of Louisiana over Jacques Villere by a
popular vote of 3,707 to 1,947. His campaign was helped by his compassionate
reception of refugees from St. Domingue in 1809 and his Creole wife. After his
years as governor, Claiborne was elected the U.S. Senate. However, Claiborne
passed away before he could take his seat in the Senate.
Claiborne was at odds with many state residents over one issue - the
acceptability of pirate Jean Lafitte. The people loved Lafitte because he
provided goods, though stolen, that were inexpensive or otherwise not available.
Governor Claiborne, disappointed that the Lousiana legislature would not approve
his request to put up a reward for Lafitte, put up $500 himself. As a humorous
response, Lafitte offered a $15,000 reward for the governor.