George Poindexter, Second Governor of Mississippi: 1820-1822
A contemporary historian wrote that the history of George Poindexter’s public career is “the history of the Territory and the State of Mississippi, so closely and prominently was he connected with everything that occurred.”
Poindexter, who was born in Louisa County, Virginia, in 1779, practiced law in Richmond before migrating to Natchez in 1802. From his successful law practice in Natchez he launched a long and distinguished political career during which he served as delegate to the territorial assembly, attorney general of the Mississippi Territory, territorial judge, territorial representative to the United States Congress, United States congressman, governor, and United States senator. Poindexter was elected president pro tempore of the U. S. Senate in 1834.
At the 1817 Constitutional Convention, Poindexter was chairman of the
committee that drafted the constitution and is generally recognized as
the “Father of Mississippi’s First Constitution.” He
later compiled the Poindexter Code, the state’s first legal
compendium. In 1819, while serving in the U. S. Congress, Poindexter was
elected as Mississippi’s second governor.
Approximately two weeks after he was inaugurated, Governor Poindexter
signed a bill emancipating William Johnson, the famous Barber of Natchez.
Johnson eventually became Mississippi’s most famous and prosperous
free black and often loaned money to his white friends, including George
Poindexter’s opposition to Jackson, who was immensely popular in Mississippi, caused his defeat for reappointment to the U. S. Senate in 1835. He left the state an embittered and defeated man. After moving to Lexington, Kentucky, for a short time, Poindexter returned to Jackson in 1841 and resumed his law practice which he maintained until his death in 1855. J. F. H. Claiborne, Mississippi’s premier historian of the 19th century, considered Poindexter "the ablest man who ever lived in the state."
David Sansing, Ph.D., is history professor emeritus, University of Mississippi.
Posted December 2003
Bailey, Robert. "George Poindexter." Journal of Mississippi History, XXXV. Jackson: Mississippi Historical Society, (August, 1973); 227-247.
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress (1950), 169, 1689.
Mississippi Official and Statistical Register (1912), 49.
Rowland, Dunbar. Mississippi Comprising Sketches in Cyclopedic Form II. 438-444 on "Kitchen Cabinet;" 448 on "ablest man;" 450.
Swearingin, Mack. Early Life of George Poindexter. New Orleans: Tulane University, 1934.
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