Richard Dobbs Spaight, Jr.

24th Governor of the State of North Carolina - 1835 to 1836

Date Born: 1796

Date Died: November 2, 1850

Place Born: New Bern, NC

Place Buried: Craven County, NC

Residence: Near New Bern, NC

Occupation: Lawyer


Richard Dobbs Spaight, Jr. was born in 1796 in New Bern, NC, the son of Richard Dobbs Spaight and Mary Jones Leech. He attended the New Bern Academy and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he graduated in 1815. Spaight studied law and was admitted to the North Carolina bar in 1818.

Richard Dobbs Spaight, Jr. never married. He and his father were the first - father-son - governors of North Carolina. W. Kerr Scott and Robert W. Scott later achieved the same distinction.

In 1819, Richard Dobbs Spaight, Jr. was elected as one of two men to represent Craven County in the House of Commons of the:
- 44th General Assembly that met in 1819

In 1820, Richard Dobbs Spaight, Jr. was first elected to represent Craven County in the NC Senate of the:
- 45th General Assembly that met in 1820
- 46th General Assembly that met in 1821
- 47th General Assembly that met in 1822

In 1823, Richard Dobbs Spaight, Jr. was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and served until 1825.

In 1825, Richard Dobbs Spaight, Jr. was again elected to represent Craven County in the NC Senate of the:
- 50th General Assembly that met from 1825-1826
- 51st General Assembly that met from 1826-1827
- 52nd General Assembly that met from 1827-1828
- 53rd General Assembly that met from 1828-1829
- 54th General Assembly that met from 1829-1830
- 55th General Assembly that met from 1830-1831
- 56th General Assembly that met from 1831-1832
- 57th General Assembly that met from 1832-1833
- 58th General Assembly that met from 1833-1834
- 59th General Assembly that met from 1834-1835

In 1835, the General Assembly elected Richard Dobbs Spaight, Jr. as the next Governor of North Carolina, and he served one term from December 9, 1835 to December 30, 1836. He was the last governor to be elected by the General Assembly; all subsequent governor would be elected by the people in a general election. Gov. Spaight opposed state-funded internal improvements.

Richard Dobbs Spaight, Jr. served the Freemasons as Grand Lecturer from 1833 through 1838 and as Grand Master in 1830 and 1831. He held various other offices and served on committees in St. John’s and the Grand Lodge, being as well versed in Masonic law as with the laws of the state.

Richard Dobbs Spaight, Jr. returned to his law practice in New Bern, then retired to his farm, and he died on November 2, 1850. He was buried in the family cemetery on Clermont Plantation, near New Bern, NC.


Richard Dobbs Spaight, Jr. (1796 - 2 November 1850) was the Democratic governor of the U.S. state of North Carolina from 1835 to 1836.

Born in New Bern, North Carolina, Spaight was the son of North Carolina Governor Richard Dobbs Spaight. The young Spaight was orphaned in 1802 when his father was killed in a duel; he later attended New Bern Academy and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, graduating in 1815.

Spaight studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1818; he was elected to the North Carolina House of Commons in 1819 and the North Carolina Senate in 1820, where he served until being elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1823.

Defeated for re-election to Congress, Spaight returned to the state legislature. He made repeated unsuccessful attempts to run for Governor, defeated in 1827 (by James Iredell, Jr.), 1828 (by John Owen), 1830, 1831 (by Montfort Stokes) and 1832 (by David Swain). Spaight was finally successful in 1835, becoming the last governor elected by the General Assembly under the North Carolina Constitution of 1776. As governor, he opposed state-funded internal improvements.

Under the new North Carolina Constitution of 1835, Spaight ran in the first statewide popular election for governor, but was defeated by Edward B. Dudley. Spaight retired to his farm near New Bern.

The Spaights were the first father and son to both become Governor of North Carolina. W. Kerr Scott and Robert W. Scott later achieved the same distinction.


Richard Dobbs Spaight, Jr., governor of North Carolina, was born in New Bern, NC in 1796. When he was just six years old, his father, Governor Richard D. Spaight, Sr. was killed in a duel. His education was attained at the New Bern Academy, and at the University of North Carolina, where he graduated in 1815. He went on to study law, and then established his legal career in his hometown of New Bern. Spaight first entered politics in 1819, serving as a member of the NC House of Commons. He also served in the NC Senate from 1820 to 1822 and 1825 to 1835; and was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1823 to 1825. After five unsuccessful gubernatorial bids, Spaight finally was elected in 1835, becoming the last governor to be elected by the legislature. During his tenure, internal improvements that were to be financed by state money was contested. After running unsuccessfully for reelection, Spaight retired from political life. He continued to stay active in his law practice, as well as serving as on the University of North Carolina’s Board of Trustees, a post he held twenty-nine years. Richard Dobbs Spaight, Jr. passed away on November 2, 1850, and was buried in the family burial ground on the Clermont plantation near New Bern, NC.

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