Hiram G. Runnels, Ninth Governor of Mississippi: 1833-1835
Hiram Runnels lost the office of governor and won the office of governor by the narrowest margins in Mississippi’s history. In 1831 he lost by 247 votes and in 1833 he won by 558 votes, but then lost again in 1835 by 426 votes.
Runnels was an excitable and volatile person. His narrow defeat in 1835 has been attributed, in part at least, to his emotional outburst against one of his opponents during which he used some very harsh and unparliamentary language.
Runnels, who was born December 15, 1796, in Hancock County, Georgia, migrated to Mississippi and settled near Monticello. In 1822, when the Mississippi Legislature appointed him state auditor, Runnels moved to Jackson. He served as state auditor until his election to the state senate from Hinds County in 1830. As a state senator, Runnels sided with President Andrew Jackson during the tariff controversy of 1832. His close identification with President Jackson brought him substantial support in his successful governor’s campaign during a special election in May 1833.
Although Runnels was duly elected in May 1833, and the Mississippi Legislature
had authorized the new governor to assume the office immediately, there
was some confusion about when his term should actually begin. Because
of that confusion, Runnels did not take office until November 20, 1833,
the time specified in the new 1832 constitution. Until then, the president
of the state senate, Charles Lynch, served as governor.
For a period of thirteen days, Mississippi was without a governor. The
secretary of state therefore called a special session of the senate to
elect a president who could assume the office of governor. The senate
convened December 3, 1835, and elected John A. Quitman president, who
under these unusual circumstances became Mississippi’s chief executive
for about a month until governor-elect Charles Lynch was inaugurated January
David Sansing, Ph.D., is history professor emeritus, University of Mississippi.
Posted December 2003
Mississippi Official and Statistical Register (1908), 32, 111; (1912), 55.
Rowland, Dunbar. Mississippi Comprising Sketches in Cyclopedic Form II, 580-585.
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