Author: John G. Deal

editor of the Dictionary of Virginia Biography at the Library of Virginia

Tyler, John (1790–1862)

John Tyler was the tenth president of the United States. The son of a Virginia governor, Tyler had already been a member of the House of Delegates and the Council of State before being elected to Congress in 1816. After serving as governor of Virginia, the assembly elected him to the United States Senate. A slaveholder and Democrat, he supported states’ rights and limited government. He broke with Andrew Jackson early in the 1830s over what he viewed as an alarming increase in federal power. Tyler joined the Whig Party and won the vice presidency in 1840 on a ticket with William Henry Harrison. Following Harrison’s death in April 1841, Tyler became the first vice president to assume office after the death of the chief executive. His support of states’ rights clashed with his party’s prevailing belief in a stronger government, nearly causing the collapse of his administration. Tyler found some success in foreign affairs, but he left the White House in 1845 unpopular and expelled from the Whig Party. As the secession crisis intensified early in 1861, Tyler presided over the ill-fated Peace Conference to head off armed conflict. He served as a delegate to the Virginia convention that addressed the state’s response to the crisis, ultimately voting for secession in April 1861. The following November Tyler won election to the Confederate House of Representatives, but died before his term began.


Powell, Guy (d. by November 19, 1900)

Guy Powell was a member of the Senate of Virginia (1875–1879) and of the House of Delegates (1881–1883). Born enslaved in Brunswick County, he worked as a laborer and then studied to be a Baptist minister at the Richmond Institute. He ministered in Brunswick, Greensville, and Southampton counties and took leadership roles in statewide church groups. In 1875, Powell won election to the Senate of Virginia but did not speak often. During his term, he and several other delegates publicly protested poor treatment and bad accommodations at a local hotel. In March 1881, he attended a convention of African American Republicans in Petersburg that voted to affiliate with the Readjuster Party, and later that year Powell won election to the House of Delegates, representing Brunswick County. After one term he moved to Southampton County, purchasing land there and continuing to preach. He died in 1900.


Dabbs, Isaac (ca. 1848–after 1910)

Isaac Dabbs served as a member of the House of Delegates from 1875 to 1877. Little is known about Dabbs’s early life. He was born enslaved, most likely in Charlotte County, but it is not known how and when he became free. In November 1875 the county’s Radical Republicans nominated Dabbs as their candidate for the House of Delegates; he won the November election, receiving more than twice the number of votes as his second-place opponent. After a quiet two-year term, Dabbs missed the party nomination for his former seat by only one vote. Dabbs remained a local political and civic leader, aligning himself with the Readjuster faction of the Republican Party. He had moved to Baltimore by 1910, the year of his last known appearance in the public record.


Clements, James H. (1831–1900)

James H. Clements was a Republican and a member of the Convention of 1867–1868. Born in Washington, D.C., Clements lived in Norfolk at the outbreak of the American Civil War (1861–1865). He remained loyal to the Union during the war and may have served in the U.S. Army. In 1867 Clements, by then living in Portsmouth, was elected to represent Portsmouth and Norfolk County in a convention called to draft a new state constitution. He was the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor in the anticipated statewide election of 1868, but that year’s contests were canceled. The following year the increasingly moderate Clements fell in his bid for the gubernatorial nomination. He subsequently leveraged his political contacts to hold a series of federal jobs, and served as Portsmouth’s postmaster for almost seven years. He died in 1900.


Carver, William (d. 1676)

William Carver was a participant in Bacon’s Rebellion (1676–1677). An experienced merchant mariner engaged in trade between London and the colonies, Carver owned land in Lower Norfolk County, where he was a burgess, tax collector, and sheriff. In June 1676 Carver requested a commission from Nathaniel Bacon to lead forces against the Indians. Instead, Bacon appointed Carver and Giles Bland commanders of a naval force and ordered them to capture Governor Sir William Berkeley. Their flotilla of small boats with several hundred men found Berkeley on September 1, 1676, in Northampton County. Berkeley gained the upper hand, however, and the next day seized Carver, Bland, and their men. The governor hanged Carver and four others within several days, then moved swiftly to retake Jamestown.


Cabell, William H. (1772–1853)

William H. Cabell was the governor of Virginia (1805–1808) and, for four decades, a justice of the Virginia Court of Appeals (1811–1852). A Democratic-Republican, he represented Amherst County in the House of Delegates (1796–1799, 1802–1805) and sat on the General Court prior to being appointed to the Court of Appeals. Cabell was deliberate and thorough, as governor and in his judicial career. Although he rarely filed a separate opinion during his time on the Court of Appeals, he was known to reverse a previous decision. When he retired in 1852 because of his poor health, Cabell was among the longest-serving judges in the history of the state supreme court. Cabell County, created in 1809 and now part of West Virginia, is named for him. He died in 1853.

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