Gerard C. Brandon was the first native Mississippian to be elected governor. He also held the office longer than any other governor before the American Civil War.
Brandon actually served as governor twice before he was ever elected to that office. As lieutenant governor he became governor after the death of Governor Walter Leake in 1825 and again in 1826 when Governor David Holmes resigned because of failing health. While he was completing Governor Holmes's unexpired term, Brandon was elected governor in 1827 and then re-elected in 1829.
Brandon was born at Selma Plantation in Adams County in September 1788 and was educated at Princeton University and William and Mary College. He practiced law at Washington, the Mississippi Territory capital, and was a successful planter in Adams County. Brandon, a veteran of the War of 1812, was a delegate to the constitutional conventions of 1817 and 1832 and helped draft the state's first two constitutions. He also served in the Mississippi Legislature and was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives in 1822.
Governor Brandon was the chief executive of Mississippi at the beginning of a very exciting and prosperous era known as the “Flush Times.” The period was also called the “Era of the Common Man” because the right to vote and the right to hold office were extended to all white males, even to those who did not own any property.
Two major Indian land cessions, which were finalized during his administration, made several million acres of good cotton land available for settlement and Mississippi soon became the heartland of the “Cotton Kingdom.” The rapid development of the newly acquired territory required a road system into the interior parts of the state. Brandon promoted the construction of roads, bridges, and turnpikes, as well as the development of water transportation to facilitate that settlement. A completely new form of transportation that would soon revolutionize travel in America was inaugurated in 1831 when the state granted a charter to the first railroad to operate in Mississippi.
After the acquisition of the Indian lands, the Mississippi Legislature created several new counties in north Mississippi. The addition of those new counties and the extension of suffrage to all white males, along with other social and political changes, made Mississippi’s old 1817 Constitution outdated. In 1831 the people voted in favor of a call for a constitutional convention by a margin of four to one. The next year a convention assembled in Jackson and drafted a modern and more democratic constitution.
Governor Brandon, whose term had just expired, was a delegate from Adams County to that convention. It was his last act of public service. For the remainder of his life, Brandon lived as a country gentleman on his Columbian Springs plantation in Adams County, where he died March 28, 1850. Brandon, the county seat of Rankin County, is named in honor of Mississippi's fourth and sixth governor.
David Sansing, Ph.D., is history professor emeritus, University of Mississippi.
Mississippi Official and Statistical Register (1912), 52.
Rowland, Dunbar. Mississippi Comprising Sketches in Cyclopedic Form I. 287-293.