Governor Tilghman Tucker and his wife, Sarah F. McBee, were the first residents of the Mississippi Governor’s Mansion and because of the formal opening of the mansion, his inauguration on January 10, 1842, was especially festive. But Governor Tucker was a plain man of simple tastes. He did not enjoy the ceremonial and social trappings of public office, and, to the great disappointment of Jackson residents, Governor Tucker and Mississippi’s First Lady rarely entertained at the mansion.
Like many of his contemporaries, Tucker migrated to Mississippi, by way of Alabama, from North Carolina where he was born February 2, 1802. As a young man Tucker was a blacksmith, but he gave up that trade to read law under Judge Daniel W. Wright in Hamilton, the original county seat of old Monroe County. After his admission to the bar, Tucker opened a law office at Columbus, the county seat of recently established Lowndes County.
Tucker was elected as Lowndes County’s first representative in the state legislature in 1831. Tucker was a Democrat and served in the House of Representatives until 1836, when he was elected to the state senate. In 1841, the Mississippi Democratic Party was bitterly divided over the issue of whether the state should honor the bonds from the failed Planters Bank and Union Bank. Both banks had failed during the Panic of 1833. Some Democrats announced that they would support David Shattuck, the Whig candidate for governor, who favored the redemption of the bonds. When Tucker was offered the Democratic nomination for governor, he at first declined to run, but was eventually persuaded to make what appeared to be a hopeless race. But in a very close election, Tucker won.
During Governor Tucker’s administration, the bond issue kept the Democratic Party divided, and his term in office was an unhappy time for him. Governor Tucker also came under attack from his political opponents after it was learned that the state treasurer, Richard S. Graves, had embezzled $44,000 and had escaped to Canada while under the guard of a local militia group. Although he had removed the treasurer from office and ordered his arrest, Governor Tucker was criticized for not reacting sooner to the rumors and speculation that something was amiss in the treasurer’s office.
After leaving the governor’s office, Tucker served one term in the United States Congress. Following his congressional term, Tucker retired from public life and moved to Cottonwood, his plantation home in Louisiana. While visiting his father in Marion County, Alabama, Tucker died April 3, 1859.
David Sansing, Ph.D., is professor of history emeritus, University of Mississippi.
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress (1950), 1935.
Claiborne, J.F.H. Mississippi, As A Province, Territory and State. Jackson: Power & Barksdale, Publishers and Printers, 1880, 433. Reprinted by Louisiana State University Press, 1964.
Mississippi Official and Statistical Register (1912), 59.
Rowland, Dunbar. Mississippi Comprising Sketches in Cyclopedic Form II. 823-824.
Sansing, David and Carroll Waller, Mississippi Governor’s Mansion (Jackson, 1977), 17-23