North Carolina State Government

Secretary of State

 Department Website:

Elaine F. Marshall

Since the beginnings of the colony in 1664, the Lords Proprietors deemed it neccesary to appoint a Secretary to support their appointed governors. The first duty of the Secretary was to document and record the official meetings of the colonial government. Over time, this singular position grew into a large department with many responsibilities not even remotely envisioned by the Lords Proprietors.

Per the first North Carolina Constitution of 1776, the Secretary was elected by the General Assembly, and this continued until the 1868 North Carolina Constitution specified that this Officer be elected by the people. Per the 1776 Constitution, the Secretary could not serve on the Council of State, however, since 1868 the opposite has been true.

The current State Constitution establishes the Office of Secretary of State in Article III, Section 7, with the term of office of four years, and which commences on the first day of January after their election and continue until their successors are elected and qualified. The duties outlined in the General Statutes are:

- To perform such duties as may then be devolved upon the Secretary by resolution of the two houses of the General Assembly or either of them;
- To attend the Governor, whenever required by the Governor, for the purpose of receiving documents which have passed the great seal;
- To receive and keep all conveyances and mortgages belonging to the State;
- To distribute annually the statutes and the legislative journals;
- To distribute the Acts of the General Assembly received at the Secretary's Office in the manner prescribed for the statutes of the State;
- To keep a receipt book, in which the Secretary shall take from every person to whom a grant shall be delivered, a receipt for the same; but may inclose grants by mail in a registered letter at the expense of the grantee, unless otherwise directed, first entering the same upon the receipt book;
- To issue charters and all necessary certificates for the incorporation, domestication, suspension, reinstatement, cancellation and dissolution of corporations as may be required by the corporation laws of the State and maintain a record thereof;
- To issue certificates of registration of trademarks, labels and designs as may be required by law and maintain a record thereof;
- To maintain a Division of Publications to compile data on the State's several governmental agencies and for legislative reference;
- To receive, enroll and safely preserve the Constitution of the State and all amendments thereto;
- To serve as a member of such boards and commissions as the Constitution and laws of the State may designate;
- To administer the Securities Law of the State, regulating the issuance and sale of securities, as is now or may be directed;
- To receive and keep all oaths of public officials required by law to be filed in the Secretary's office, and as Secretary of State, is fully empowered to administer official oaths to any public official of whom an oath is required;
- To receive and maintain a journal of all appointments made to any State board, agency, commission, council or authority which is filed in the office of the Secretary of State;
- To regulate the solicitation of contributions pursuant to Chapter 131F of the General Statutes; and
- To apply for and accept grants from the federal government and its agencies and from any foundation, corporation, association, or individual in order to effectuate the purposes of the Nonprofit Corporation Act, Chapter 55A of the General Statutes, and to further aid in the operation and development of nonprofit corporations. The Secretary shall comply with the terms, conditions, and limitations of grants applied for and accepted and shall expend grant funds pursuant to Chapter 143C of the General Statutes, The State Budget Act.

Past Secretaries of State




Elaine F. Marshall

1997 - present
First woman elected as Secretary of State in North Carolina. Elected on November 5, 1996, took office on January 1, 1997.

Janice I. Faulkner

Appointed by Governor James B. Hunt, Jr. on April 1, 1996 to serve the remainder of Edmisten's term. First woman as Secretary of State in North Carolina.

Rufus L. Edmisten

1989 - 1996
Resigned in March of 1996.

Thaddeus Armie Eure

1936 - 1989
Longest serving Secretary of State in NC. Appointed by Governor John C.B. Ehringhaus to replace Powell. Retired on January 7, 1989.

Charles G. Powell

Appointed by Governor John C.B. Ehringhaus on November 17, 1936 to replace Wade. Resigned a month later.

Stacey W. Wade

1933 - 1936
Resigned in November of 1936.

James A. Hartness

1928 - 1933
Appointed by Governor Angus W. McLean on February 13, 1928 to replace Everett. Did not run for re-election.

William N. Everett

1923 - 1928
Appointed by Governor Cameron A. Morrison on January 16, 1923 to replace Grimes. Died on February 7, 1928.

John Bryan Grimes

1901 - 1923
Died on January 16, 1923.

Cyrus Thompson

1897 - 1901

Charles M. Cooke

1895 - 1897
Appointed by Governor Elias Carr on September 3, 1895 to replace Coke. Lost in the next election.

Octavius Coke

1891 - 1895
Appointed by Governor David G. Fowle on April 4, 1891 to replace Saunders. Died on August 30, 1895.

William L. Saunders

1879 - 1891
Appointed by Governor Thomas J. Jarvis on February 18, 1879 to replace Englehard. Died on April 2, 1891.

Joseph A.. Englehard

1877 - 1879
Died on February 15, 1879.

William H. Howerton

1873 - 1877

Henry J. Menninger

1868 - 1873
Elected by the General Assembly in April of 1868.

Robert W. Best

1865 - 1868
Appointed by Governor William W. Holden.

Charles R. Thomas

Elected by the General Assembly, took office on January 3, 1865. Resigned on August 12, 1865.

John P.H. Russ

1862 - 1864

Rufus H. Page

1857 - 1862
Appointed by Governor Thomas Bragg.

William Hill

1811 - 1857
Second longest serving Secretary of State. Died on October 29, 1857.

William White

1798 - 1811
Died between September and November of 1811.

James Glasgow

1777 - 1798
Resigned effective November 20, 1798.

Past Secretaries of the Province/Colony of North Carolina




Samuel Strudwick

1772 - 1775
Appointed by Governor Josiah Martin.

Robert Palmer

1770 - 1771
Appointed by Governor William Tryon. Granted a leave of absence on 7/8/1771 due to ill health.

John London

1769 - 1770
Appointed by Governor William Tryon upon the death of Benjamin Heron. Served until he declined acting any longer.

Benjamin Heron

1762 - 1769
Appointed by Governor Arthur Dobbs. Granted a leave of absence on 3/6/1769 to return to England, where he soon died.

Richard Spaight

2nd appointment by Governor Arthur Dobbs. Served until he died during late July or early August of 1762.

Thomas Faulkner

Unclear if he served or not.

Richard Spaight

1755 - 1762
Appointed by Governor Arthur Dobbs in October of 1755.

Henry McCulloch

Qualified as a Member of the Executive Council on 3/25/1755 but began serving as Secretary in April. Died during 1755.

James Murray

1753 - 1755
Appointed by the Executive Council upon the death of Nathaniel Rice. Served until McCulloch arrived. Land records show he signed papers as Secretary on 3/31/1755.

Nathaniel Rice

1731 - 1753
Commissioned by the Crown. Died on 1/28/1753.

Joseph Anderson

Appointed Acting Secretary by Governor George Burrington until Nathaniel Rice arrived.

John Lovick

1719 - 1731
First appointed by Governor Charles Eden upon the death of Tobias Knight. 1722, commissioned by the Lords Proprietors.

Tobias Knight

1712 - 1719
Commissioned by the Lords Proprietors. Died in late June of 1719.

Nevil Low

Lords Proprietors issued two commissions in 1711, but there is no evidence that he served.


1708 - 1712
Secretary not known during this period of chaos caused by the Cary Rebellion.

George Lumley

1704 & 1708
Appointed by Tobias Knight to serve while Knight was sick.

Tobias Knight

1704 - 1708
One source says he started in 1704, but other sources show he started in February of 1705.

Samuel Swann

1700 - 1704
Exact start is unknown. There is evidence he was Secretary by September of 1700.

Daniel Akehurst

1692 - 1700
Exact start is unknown. There is evidence he was Secretary on 6/26/1693. He died in either late 1699 or early 1700.

Francis Hartley

1685 - 1692
Commissioned by the Lords Proprietors. Apparently died in January of 1691/1692.

? Woodrowe

1683 - 1685
Only one mention of Woodrowe - a letter from the Lords Proprietors in February of 1684/1685. Possibly appointed as early as 1682.

Robert Holden

1679 - 1683
Commissioned by the Lords Proprietors and returned to Albemarle in July of 1679. Much controversy about this second term.

Thomas Miller

1677 - 1679
Several sources indicate he was appointed Secretary as well as Acting Governer by Governor Thomas Eastchurch.

Robert Holden

1675 - 1677
Evidence that he was Secretary on 7/26/1675 with his signature on an affadavit. May have started earlier since he is known to have come to the colony in 1671.

Peter Carteret

1665 - 1672
Commissioned by the Lords Proprietors and arrived in Albemarle in February of 1665. Following the death of Governor Samuel Stephens in 1670, he was Acting Governor and it is assumed that he continued as Secretary as well.

Richard Cobthrop

Commissioned by the Lords Proprietors but never left England.

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