Thomas Walter Bickett

48th Governor of the State of North Carolina - 1917 to 1921

Date Born: February 28, 1869

Date Died: December 28, 1921

Place Born: Monroe, NC

Place Buried: Louisburg, NC

Residence: Louisburg, NC

Occupation: Lawyer


Thomas Walter Bickett was born on February 28, 1869 in Monroe, NC, the son of Dr. Thomas Winchester Bickett and Mary Ann (Covington) Bickett. He first attended public schools in Monroe. After graduating from Wake Forest College in 1890, Bickett taught in the public schools for two years, first in Marion and later in Winston-Salem. He studied law at the University of North Carolina in the fall of 1892 and in February of the following year was admitted to the North Carolina bar.

Thomas Walter Bickett practiced law briefly in Monroe and in Danbury before moving in 1895 to Louisburg, where he soon became the senior partner in the firm of Bickett, White, & Malone.

On November 29, 1898, Thomas Walter Bickett married Fannie Neal Yarborough, daughter of William and Lucy Yarborough of Louisburg, NC; they had three children, but only one son survived infancy.

In 1907, Thomas Walter Bickett was elected to represent Franklin County in the NC House of Representatives of the:
- 97th General Assembly that met from 1907-1908

In 1908 and again in 1912, Thomas Walter Bickett was elected as NC Attorney General and in that capacity ably defended the state's interests in cases appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In frequent demand as a public speaker, he emerged during his second term as a likely prospect for the gubernatorial nomination in 1916.

In the 1916 general election, Thomas Walter Bickett was elected by the people as the next Governor of North Carolina. He served one term from January 11, 1917 to January 12, 1921. He was in office less than three months before the United States entered World War I. His administration included the beginning of a juvenile court system, the expansion of the state's roads and improvements in education, and the prison system.

In the fall of 1917, Gov. Bickett led a successful Liberty Loan campaign. The first one, early in the war, had failed to reach its goal. An enthusiastic Gov. Bickett, however, later enlisted county sheriffs and mayors in the cause. This effort was successful; North Carolina raised $10 million over its quota in Liberty Bond and War Stamp sales.

Gov. Bickett took pride in the state’s contribution to the war. He declared that his most important accomplishments were the 80,000 troops and approximately $250 million in financial drives produced by North Carolina for the war effort.

Upon his retirement as governor in January of 1921, Thomas Walter Bickett purchased a home in Raleigh, NC and formed a law partnership with Attorney General James S. Manning and Garland S. Ferguson, Jr. On December 27, 1921, less than a year after leaving office, he suffered a stroke. He died the following day at the age of fifty-two and was buried in Louisburg, NC.


Thomas Walter Bickett (28 February 1869 - 22 December 1921) was the Democratic governor of the U.S. state of North Carolina from 1917 to 1921.

Bickett was a graduate of Wake Forest College. Prior to being elected Governor, Bickett represented Franklin County in the North Carolina General Assembly and then served as North Carolina Attorney General for two terms (1909-1917).

In 1916, Bickett became the first state governor who was nominated by means of a Democratic Party primary election. Under Bickett's leadership, the state saw improvements in child welfare, public health, electricity, and running water. He also had to lead the state through World War I.


Thomas Walter Bickett, governor of North Carolina, was born in Monroe, NC on February 28, 1869. His education was attained at Wake Forest College, where he graduated in 1890. He went on to study law at the University of North Carolina, and in 1893 was licensed to practice. Bickett first entered politics as a member of the NC House of Representatives, a position he held from 1907 to 1908. He also served as the Attorney General of North Carolina from 1909 to 1917. Bickett next secured the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, and was elected governor by a popular vote in the 1916 general election. During his tenure, a juvenile court system was initiated; educational improvements were sanctioned; the state’s road system was advanced; and penal reform measures were approved. After completing his term, Bickett retired from political life, and returned to his legal career. Thomas W. Bickett passed away on December 22, 1921, and was buried somewhere in Louisburg, NC.
Click Here to view/download an Adobe PDF file of the book, entitled "Public Letters and Papers of Thomas Walter Bickett, Governor of North Carolina 1917-1921," published in 1923.

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