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About Daniel Lindsay Russell, Jr.
Daniel Lindsay Russell, Jr. (August 7, 1845 – May 14, 1908) was the 49th Governor of North Carolina from 1897 to 1901, an attorney and judge, and a politician elected as state representative and to the United States Congress. Although he fought with the Confederacy during the Civil War, Russell and his father were both Unionists. He was the first Republican elected as governor since the end of the Reconstruction era in 1877 and the last until 1973.
After the war, Russell joined the Republican Party in North Carolina, which was an unusual affiliation for one of the planter class. He served as a state judge, as well as in the state and national legislatures. In 1896, he was elected governor on a Fusionist ticket, a collaboration between Republicans and Populists that was victorious over the Democrats. After serving one four-year term, he retired from politics.
He was governor during the Wilmington Insurrection of 1898, which occurred two days after the election in which Republicans won most of the offices in the city: the mayor and two-thirds of the aldermen were white, but Democratic Party white supremacists had planned to overthrow the government if they lost. Led by Russell's former gubernatorial opponent, Alfred M. Waddell, a white mob attacked the black newspaper and neighborhoods; they ran political opponents out of town. Russell ordered the Wilmington Light Infantry (WLI) to quell the rioting, but they killed several black men as well. He did not intervene with Waddell's city government. At the end of his term, Russell retired from politics to return to his law practice and plantation.
Early life and education
Born on Winnabow Plantation in Brunswick County near Wilmington, North Carolina, Russell, Jr. was the son of Daniel Lindsay Russell, of a prominent planter family. He was educated privately by tutors before attending the Bingham School in Orange County, North Carolina.
He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, but left soon after the outbreak of the American Civil War. He was commissioned as a captain in the Confederate Army and served in the war.
Russell was elected as a member of the North Carolina House of Commons, serving 1864–1866. During that time, he studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1866; he set up practice in Wilmington. He and his father had both been Union sympathizers during the war, and Russell joined the Republican Party.
In 1868, Russell was appointed a Superior Court judge in the 4th judicial circuit, a post he held until 1874. In 1871 he was a delegate to a state constitutional convention. In 1876, despite the activity of the Red Shirts paramilitary to suppress Republican political activity and voting, and struggle of Democratic white supremacists to regain control in the state, Russell was elected again to the North Carolina House of Representatives. He was a delegate to the 1876 Republican National Convention.
On November 5, 1878, Russell was elected to the 46th United States Congress, running on the Republican and Greenback tickets; in a close election, he defeated the Democratic Party incumbent Alfred M. Waddell by 11,611 votes to 10,730. Russell served one term (March 4, 1879 – March 4, 1881) and did not stand for renomination.
In the mid-1890s, the new Populist Party allied with the Republican Party in North Carolina; the alliance ran "Fusion" candidates for many offices. In 1896, the two parties held separate state conventions to allow the Populists to nominate Presidential Electors pledged to William J. Bryan. At the Republican state convention in Raleigh on May 16, 1896, Russell was nominated for Governor on the seventh ballot over former U.S. Representative Oliver H. Dockery. Disgruntled, Dockery convinced the Populists to run a separate statewide slate of candidates against the Republicans, with Dockery as the Populist nominee for Lieutenant Governor.
On November 3, 1896, Russell was elected Governor of North Carolina. He won with 153,787 votes (46.5%) to 145,266 votes for Democrat Cyrus B. Watson, 31,143 for Populist William A. Guthrie, and 809 for others.
Russell was the first Republican governor of North Carolina elected since the end of Reconstruction in 1877, and the last until 1973. He served one four-year term. Although he was not up for election in 1898, Democrats used him as a foil in a white supremacist campaign. Russell had signed new legislation to extend the franchise for the first time since Reconstruction by supporting a reduction in property requirements for voters.
On November 8, 1898, the voters of Wilmington, then the state's largest city and with a black majority, elected a biracial city government: the mayor was white as were 2/3 of the city aldermen. Political tensions were so high in 1898 that white agitators, led by the former gubernatorial candidate Waddell, had planned to overthrow the government if the Democrats lost. They engendered mob violence in Wilmington. Their insurrection was a coup d'etat against the mayor and city council. Alfred Waddell, led a mob of white men in attacking the offices and destroying the printing plant for The Record, the only African-American newspaper in the state.
Russell ordered the Wilmington Light Infantry (WLI) to quell the riot, but they became involved and shot some blacks. Together with federal Navy Reserves, they intimidated both blacks and whites. The mob moved through the city's African-American neighborhoods, killing some people and chasing hundreds of blacks from the city. Although the number of casualties was uncertain, only blacks were reported as killed; one white man was critically wounded. The mob installed a new city council that elected Waddell as mayor that same day. After nearly 2100 blacks left the city permanently, its demographics changed to a white majority.
After finishing his term, Russell resumed the practice of law and operated his plantation. He died at his Belville Plantation near Wilmington in 1908. He was interred in the family burying ground in Onslow County, North Carolina.