William E. Cameron, Governor

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William Evelyn Cameron

Birthplace: Petersburg, VA, USA
Death: Died in Louisa, VA, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of Walker Anderson Cameron and Elizabeth Harrison Cameron
Husband of Louisa Clarinda Cameron
Father of Robert W Cameron; Susan Egerton Cameron and George V Cameron
Brother of Evelyn B Cameron; George Walker Cameron; John W Cameron and Anne Cameron

Occupation: Gov of VA 1882-1886
Managed by: Amber Maloney
Last Updated:

About William E. Cameron, Governor


William Evelyn Cameron (November 29, 1842 – January 25, 1927) was a soldier, lawyer, journalist, and politician. He served as the 39th Governor of Virginia from 1882–1886, elected as the candidate of the Readjuster Party headed by William T. Mahone.

Early life and career

William Evelyn Cameron was born in Petersburg, Virginia. His parents were Walker Anderson Cameron and Elizabeth Page Walker. He attended local schools, then a military academy in Hillsboro, North Carolina.

Cameron briefly attended Washington College in St. Louis, Missouri. He received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.

American Civil War

When the American Civil War started, Cameron abandoned his preparatory studies and joined the Confederate Army, serving throughout the war.

Marriage and family

After the war, Cameron returned to Petersburg, where he married Louisa Clarinda Egerton (1846–1908) on October 1, 1868. They had three children.


Cameron read the law and passed the bar. He started to practice law, but decided to pursue a career in journalism . He was an editor for newspapers in Petersburg, Norfolk and Richmond, Virginia.

Hughes duel

In 1869, Cameron fought a duel with Robert William Hughes, after Cameron criticized Hughes in print for the opportunism: he had changed his political views from pre-war Secessionist to post-war Republican. According to the writer Frank Mott,

"[T]he parties met at Chester Station, on the Petersburg Railroad; but, before they could exchange a shot, the police made their appearance, and caused a flight of the parties. They passed into North Carolina, where they fought on the 12th of June with pistols. Cameron was hit in the breast at the first fire, the ball striking a rib and glancing. Hughes demanded another fire, but the surgeons declared that Cameron could not deliver another shot, and the affair ended 'to the satisfaction of all parties.'"

Political career

Cameron became active in the Readjuster Party. He was elected as mayor of Petersburg, serving from 1876 to 1882.

In 1881, he was the gubernatorial candidate of the Readjuster Party and elected governor with biracial support. During his term from 1882–1886, he attempted to implement his party's programs of debt reduction and racial integration in certain areas. In 1882 it led passage of legislation for a land-grant college for blacks, what is now Virginia State University in Ettrick, near Petersburg.

Cameron led an anti-oyster pirate expedition of two boats and armed state militia in the ongoing Oyster Wars of the Chesapeake Bay. The state had attempted to license and control traffic in the popular seafood, but 5800 Virginia oyster boats often disregarded laws related to trying to preserve the harvest.

After his term as governor ended in 1886, Cameron briefly left Virginia. He returned and resumed a career in politics, but as a conservative Democrat. Cameron represented Petersburg in the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1901-1902. At this time, the Democrat-dominated legislature created a disfranchising constitution and essentially ended black voting. The Republican Party ceased to be competitive in the state.

It has had a curious revival since the later twentieth century in the state, following the civil rights movement and passage of federal civil rights legislation in the mid-1960s that enforced voting rights for African Americans. Today the Republican Party in Virginia is supported primarily by conservative whites, who used to support the Democrats.

Cameron served as editor of the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot newspaper from 1906 to 1919.

William Evelyn Cameron died on January 25, 1927 at the home of one of his sons in Louisa County, Virginia. He was buried at Blandford Cemetery in Petersburg.

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William E. Cameron, Governor's Timeline

November 29, 1842
Petersburg, VA, USA
Age 25
June 1871
Age 28
Age 30
January 25, 1927
Age 84
Louisa, VA, USA