George W. Crawford (1798-1872)
George W. Crawford, the sole Whig to serve as governor of Georgia, was elected to two terms from 1843 to 1847. Crawford also served as a Georgia state representative, state attorney general, a U.S. congressman, and the secretary of war under U.S. president Zachary Taylor. In 1861 Crawford came out of retirement to chair the state secession convention in Milledgeville.
Education and Early Career
Governor John Forsyth appointed Crawford to fill a vacant spot as attorney general of Georgia in 1827. The next year, Crawford instigated a duel with Thomas Burnside over a series of accusations that Burnside published about Crawford's father. Crawford shot Burnside dead, but the incident would not inhibit his political career. Despite the controversy, he continued as attorney general until 1831. In 1837 Richmond County voters elected him to the state legislature under the States' Rights ticket. During his five terms in office, Crawford distinguished himself as a fiscal conservative. In 1842 he won a vacant seat, as a Whig, in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he spent a quiet year in Congress.
In an attempt to capitalize on Crawford's electoral success, the Georgia Whig Party unanimously chose him to represent it in the 1843 gubernatorial election. Thanks in part to divisions within the Democratic Party in Georgia, Crawford defeated Mark Anthony Cooper to become the only Whig to occupy the Governor's Mansion. During his first term (1843-45), Crawford focused on dismantling the state's Central Bank, but he also helped to expand railroad construction and reformed the state penitentiary to make it a more economically sound institution.
Crawford won a second term as governor in 1845, despite Henry Clay's failure to carry the state for the Whigs in the previous year's presidential election. The governor used the next two years to continue the programs from his first term. He also persuaded the state legislature to pass a law that created the Supreme Court of Georgia. Crawford's concentration on local issues was due in part to the Georgia Whigs' division over national issues.
Len Gibson Cleveland, "George W. Crawford of Georgia, 1798-1872" (Ph.D. diss., University of Georgia, 1974).
Paul Murray, The Whig Party in Georgia, 1825-1853 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1948).
Donnie Summerlin, University of Georgia Libraries
A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.