Thomas Reynolds, Seventh Governor of Missouri

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Thomas Reynolds, Seventh Governor of Missouri

Contributor: Bonnie Snow

Subject: Thomas Reynolds - Seventh Governor of Missouri

Date: Saturday, June 11, 2005 11:16 AM

Thomas Reynolds, Seventh Governor of Missouri

Thomas Reynolds, seventh governor of Missouri, was born in Bracken County, Kentucky, March 12, 1796. When about 21, he was admitted to the Kentucky bar. While still in his early 20s, he emigrated to Springfield, Illinois, where he soon won recognition. There he served as clerk of the Illinois house of representatives, attorney general, speaker of the house, and from August 31, 1822 to January 19, 1825, as chief justice of the Illinois state supreme court and judge of a circuit court.

Reynolds came to Missouri in 1828 or 1829, settling first at Fayette, Howard County. In 1832 he was elected to represent Howard count in the general assembly and served as speaker of the house. Governor Lilburn W. Bogg nominated Reynolds for the judgeship of the second judicial circuit of Missouri January 25, 1837. Three years later at the Democratic convention in Jefferson City, Reynolds was nominated for the governorship almost by acclamation.

As governor, Reynolds advocated an improved system of public education, a sound currency, a limited system of internal improvements so as not to burden the State with a larger public debt, and the right of each state to settle the question of slavery within its own limits. The issue which appealed to him most strongly, however, was the abolition of imprisonment for debt. Largely through his efforts this was accomplished by the act of January 17, 1843, which has been embodied in each revision of the State constitution since. During his administration, Reynolds issued the first proclamation for official State observance of Thanksgiving Day in Missouri, setting aside the fourth Thursday in November 1843.

February 9, 1844, some ten months before the expiration of his term of office, Reynolds committed suicide in his office at the executive mansion in Jefferson City by shooting himself. A note left for a friend, Colonel William G. Minor, gave the reason for his act as "the slanders and abuse" of his political enemies. However, Reynolds was one of the most popular men in the State. It was supposed that he was melancholy from ill-health. A granite shaft marking his grave was erected in Jefferson City by the state of Missouri in 1846, and Reynolds County was named for him.

Mess. and Procl. Mo. Gov., I (1922); Jeff. City Jeff. Inquirer, Feb. 29, 1844; Ency. Hist. Mo., V (1901)

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