William Kerr Scott

56th Governor of the State of North Carolina - 1949 to 1953

Date Born: April 17, 1896

Date Died: April 16, 1958

Place Born: Haw River, NC

Place Buried: Hawfields Presbyterian Church Cemetery near Mebane, NC

Residence: Alamance County, NC

Occupation: Farmer


William Kerr Scott was born on April 17, 1896 in Alamance County, NC, the son of Robert Walter Scott and Elizabeth (Hughes) Scott. He pursued an agriculture degree from the North Carolina State College. After his 1917 graduation, he joined the U.S. Army and served as a Private in a field artillery unit during World War I.

On July 2, 1919, William Kerr Scott married Mary Elizabeth White, daughter of James Richard White and Eliza Ann (Sellers) White; they had three children, including Robert Walter Scott, who was later also elected as Governor of North Carolina. William Kerr Scott pursued dairy farming in Alamance County for many years.

From 1920 to 1930, William Kerr Scott worked as Agricultural Agent in Alamance County, and from 1930 to 1933 served as Master of the North Carolina State Grange. From 1934 to 1936, Scott was Regional Director of the Farm Debt Adjustment Program of the Resettlement Administration, with duties extending to seven southern states.

In 1936, William Kerr Scott was elected as the NC Agriculture Commissioner, a position he retained until he decided to run for governor in 1948. He unseated incumbent William A. Graham. As commissioner, he was a leading proponent of rural electrification and led the successful fight to rid the state of Bangs Disease among cattle. He forced manufacturers of feed and fertilizer to eliminate sawdust and sand from their products.

In the 1948 general election, William Kerr Scott was elected by the people as the next Governor of North Carolina. He served one term from January 6, 1949 to January 8, 1953. Gov. Scott initiated his “Go Forward” program, convinced that surplus funds in state banks could be used. The legislature initially resisted his ideas for spending programs, but popular referenda approved bonds to be used for schools and roads. Gov. Scott wanted, in particular, to pave rural roads. In a little over one year, 4,658 miles, over one-third of his goal, of North Carolina’s country roads were paved. Gov. Scott also urged utility companies to provide electrical and telephone services to rural areas. It was reported that after one year 83,000 telephones had been installed and eighty-eight percent of farmers had electricity.

In 1954, William Kerr Scott was elected to represent North Carolina in the U.S. Senate, a position he rtained until his death. He served on the Agriculture Committee and where he helped frame legislation to finance the interstate highway network.

William Kerr Scott died in Burlington, NC on April 16, 1958, and he was buried in the Hawfields Presbyterian Church Cemetery near Mebane, NC.


William Kerr Scott (born 17 April 1896 Haw River, North Carolina - died 16 April 1958 Burlington, North Carolina) was a Democratic Party politician from North Carolina. He was the Governor of North Carolina from 1949 until 1953, and a United States Senator from 1954 until 1958. A native of Alamance County, North Carolina and a farmer by training, Scott was a lifelong advocate for agricultural issues and became known in his home state as "the Squire of Haw River." He was elected as the state's Commissioner of Agriculture, but resigned that post to run for governor in 1948.

His followers, popularly known as "Branchhead Boys," fervently supported Scott in all his campaigns and remained a force in North Carolina politics for more than a decade following his death. He created the "Go Forward" program with approval from the state legislature in 1949. Immediately following his term as governor, Scott represented North Carolina in the United States Senate from 1954 and 1958. His son, Bob Scott served as Governor from 1969 to 1973, and his granddaughter, Meg Scott Phipps served as North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture from 2001 to 2003.


Scott, William Kerr, a Senator from North Carolina; born in Haw River, Alamance County, N.C., April 17, 1896; attended the public schools of Hawfields, N.C.; graduated from North Carolina State College at Raleigh in 1917; during the First World War served as a private in the Field Artillery, United States Army 1918; farmer and dairyman; Alamance County farm agent 1920-1930; master, North Carolina State Grange 1930-1933; regional director, Farm Debt Adjustment Program of Resettlement Administration 1934-1936; North Carolina State Commissioner of Agriculture 1937-1948; Governor of North Carolina 1949-1952; elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate on November 2, 1954, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Willis Smith, and at the same time was elected to a full term beginning January 3, 1955, and served from November 29, 1954, until his death in Burlington, N.C., April 16, 1958; interment in Hawfields Presbyterian Church Cemetery near Mebane, N.C.
William Kerr Scott, governor of North Carolina, was born near Haw River, Almance County, NC on April 17, 1896. His education was attained at Hawfield High School, and at North Carolina State College, where he graduated in 1917. During World War I, he enlisted in the army and served as a private in the field artillery. Scott first entered politics in 1920, serving as the Almance County farm agent, a position he held ten years. He also served as master of the North Carolina State Grange from 1930 to 1933; was the regional director of the Farm Debt Adjustment Program of Resettlement Administration from 1934 to 1936; and served as the North Carolina State Commissioner of Agriculture from 1937 to 1948. Scott next secured the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, was elected governor by a popular vote in the 1948 general election. During his tenure, the state’s road system was advanced; a modernized deep-water port facility was developed at Wilmington and Morehead City; a statewide public school health plan was initiated; and the expansion of state schools was authorized. After completing his term, Scott returned to his farming interests. In 1954, he won election to the U.S. Senate, an office he held until his death. William K. Scott passed away on April 16, 1958, and was buried in the Hawfields Presbyterian Church Cemetery near Mebane, NC.
Click Here to view/download an Adobe PDF file of the book, entitled "Public Addresses, Letters, and Papers of William Kerr Scott, Governor of North Carolina 1949-1953," published in 1957.

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