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A Day Away: Tennessee’s Second Governor

By Mike Steely

How does history treat you when you are second at something?

Poor Archibald Roane, Tennessee’s second governor, might be able to tell you. Who can follow up John Sevier? Roane could, but he only with one term. Sevier had been elected and reelected and could not run for a 4th term when Roane ran, but came back two more times to defeat Roane. Seems, aside from Roane, that the first twenty years of statehood were Sevier years.

But Roane’s career was not defined by losing to Sevier. He had been a Revolutionary War hero, had crossed the Delaware River with George Washington and was present with Washington during a surrender of British forces.

He was from Pennsylvania, had a college education, practiced law in Jonesboro and married well to the daughter of Col. David Campbell of Campbell’s Station.

Roane attended the state-hood convention, was attorney for the Southwest Territory, and as one term governor outlawed dueling, saw the great seal of the state adopted, and created the three grand divisions of the state. But he was butting heads with Sevier often. When he was appointing a commander of Tennessee forces and had to choose between Andrew Jackson and John Sevier he chose Jackson.

He became a state supreme court judge and was active in the early days of three east Tennessee Colleges, including Blount University that became the University of Tennessee.

You can visit the “second” governor at the Pleasant Forest Cemeter. There are lots of other pioneer era graves there, but Roane’s marker, placed there many years after his death, is large enough to be noticed. The cemetery is between Concord Road and Campbell Station Road, just south of Kingston Pike where the home of Col. Campbell sits.

Tennessee remembers Archibald Roane to this day: there’s Roane County and Roane State University.  There’s also a lot of Roane family members in Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia, and other states.

Sometime a one-term governor, who doesn’t withdraw after some political defeats, can go on to serve important causes. Thanks, Gov. Roane.

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