A Fayetteville native, Winslow served as governor of North Carolina for less than a month (25 days). According to The Governors of North Carolina, Winslow “remains one of only two governors since 1776 who was not elected either by the General Assembly or popular vote.”
The following explains how he became governor. According to the 1835 Constitution, if a governor died or left office, the Speaker of the senate was to assume the post (the lieutenant governor position was not created until the 1868 Constitution). Although first elected to the state senate in 1854, Winslow had a spectacular rise to Democratic Party leadership and became Speaker of the senate that year. After being elected to a vacant U.S. Senate seat and with almost one month left in his gubernatorial term, Governor David Reid handed the gubernatorial position to Winslow on December 6, 1854. Winslow served in this position until Thomas Bragg was inaugurated on January 1, 1855.
After serving the shortest gubernatorial term in North Carolina history, Winslow later served in the U.S. House of Representatives (1855-1861), advised Governor John Ellis (1861), and became chairman of the state’s Military and Naval Board (MNB). Winslow’s congressional voting record reveals that he supported southern interests in economic and political matters. As chairman of the MNB, he mistakenly estimated that the rough coastline of the Outer Banks protected coastal forts and reduced the need for manpower. The forts quickly fell into Union hands in 1861, however, and an embarrassed Winslow shortly afterward resigned and returned to Fayetteville. He died in 1862.