A three-term governor, Hutchins G. Burton is noted for encouraging a system of public education to ensure that young North Carolinians received at least a rudimentary education. He also served as the state’s attorney general (1810-1816) and as a U.S. House of Representative (1819-1825).
Orphaned at a young age, Hutchins G. Burton lived with his uncle and later attended the University of North Carolina. After starting a Charlotte law practice, he married Sarah Wales Jones, a daughter of Willie Jones.
As a young politician, Burton served at the state and national levels. He started out as a legislator in the House of Commons (1809-1810), then served as the attorney general (1810-1816), and then served as a U.S. Representative (1819-1825).
He resigned his representative position to accept governorship of North Carolina. He served three terms (1824-1827)—the maximum number for the executive under the 1776 state constitution. Burton is primarily remembered for championing grammar public education. In 1925, the state created the Literary Fund to provide financial support to common schools and Burton served as its president. Many politicians believed that this creation was a transitional step to public education. Others considered it a delay tactic. The Fund lacked money to accomplish Burton’s goals, so he stressed the need for lotteries to support education.
After his public service, Burton returned to Halifax. On his travels in 1836 to Texas to view a potential property purchase, the Virginia native died.
Michael Hill, The Governors of North Carolina (Raleigh, 2006) and William S. Powell, North Carolina Through Four Centuries (Chapel Hill, 1989).