William Miller, a Warren county native, was the 18th governor of North Carolina. He served the three terms as N.C. governor, and he was also the first governor to reside in the newly built Executive Mansion on Fayetteville Street. While governor, Miller worked on several internal matters such as education, trade, and judicial reforms. In 1816 Miller married Lydia Evans, but their time together was short lived, Evans died two years later. Miller’s only son passed away shortly after his mother’s death.
Born in 1783 to Thomas Miller Jr., Miller was orphaned at a young age and he later inherited his father’s vast plantation of nearly 950 acres. Miller was educated by Reverend Marcus George at his local school, Warrenton Male Academy. For a short time, Miller attended the University of North Carolina in 1802 but left school shortly before graduation. In 1809, Miller moved back to Warren County where he started his own law practice. Miller’s experience as a lawyer prepared him for his future appointment as state attorney general by Governor David Stone in 1810. Shortly after his appointment, Miller would joined the General Assembly where he would serve four terms as a Warren County Representative. After serving as Speaker of the House for two years, Miller was elected governor in 1814.
The War of 1812 was ending as Miller took the governor’s office. He later increased North Carolina’s military presence in the southern frontier to show his support for President James Madison’s war policies. After the war, Miller turned his attention to specific improvements within the state. Specifically, due to the post-war patriotic zeal, Miller was pressed by the General Assembly “to purchase on behalf of this State a full length statue of General Washington.” Antonio Canova, a prominent Italian sculptor, was commissioned to sculpt the statue and it arrived at the statehouse in 1821. In 1815, along with Archibald D. Murphey, Miller set the stage for transportation and inland navigation improvements. Miller joined forces with Murphey again in an attempt to establish North Carolina’s Supreme Court. Even though Miller was unable to accomplish this task, his successor, John Branch, Jr. did in fact create a sovereign court.
Following his administration as governor, Miller lived privately in his home county. However, in 1821 Miller became Warren County’s state Senator. President John Quincy Adams later appointed Miller to be ambassador to Guatemala in 1825. Traveling to his new post, Miller contracted yellow fever and died on December 10, 1825 in Key West, Florida.
Michael Hill, ed., The Governors of North Carolina (Raleigh, 2007); William S. Powell, North Carolina Through Four Centuries (Chapel Hill, 1989); William S. Powell, ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina (Chapel Hill, 2006).
By Jonathan Martin, North Carolina History Project
See Also:Related Categories: Governors, Political History, Early America