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More Historical Facts

Rhode Island Governors 1640 – Present

The towns of Newport and Portsmouth formed a joint government in 1640, with the chief officer having the title of Governor.

Governor of Newport and Portsmouth

Governor Term Portrait
William Coddington, of Newport March 1640 – May 1647

In 1643, Roger Williams obtained a patent (charter) from the English Parliament. The towns of Providence and Warwick elected a Chief Officer under the authority of this Parliamentary Patent of 1643.

Chief Officer under the Patent of 1643

Governor Term
Roger Williams, of Providence September 1644 – May 1647

In 1647, the towns of Newport, Portsmouth, Providence and Warwick formed a united colony under the Parliamentary Patent. From 1647 to 1663, the colony was governed by a President, with four Assistants.

Presidents under the Patent of 1643

President Term
John Coggeshall, of Newport May 1647 – May 1648
1Jeremy Clarke, of Newport May 1648 – May 1649
John Smith, of Warwick May 1649 – May, 1650
Nicholas Easton, of Newport May 1650 – August 1651
2Samuel Gorton, of Warwick October 1651 – May 1652
2John Smith, of Warwick May 1652 – May 1653
2Gregory Dexter, of Providence May 1653 – May 1654

3Governors of Newport and Portsmouth under the Coddington Commission

Governor Term Portrait
William Coddington, of Newport May 1651 – May 1653
John Sanford, of Portsmouth May 1653 – May 1654  
4In 1654, the union of the four towns was re-established.

Presidents under the Patent of 1643

President

Term

Nicholas Easton, of Newport May 1654 – September 1654
Roger Williams, of Providence September 1654 – May 1657
Benedict Arnold, of Newport May 1657 – May 1660
William Brenton, of Newport May 1660 – May 1662
Benedict Arnold, of Newport May 1662 – November 1663
5The Royal Charter was granted by King Charles II on July 8, 1663

Governors under the Royal Charter of 1663

Governor Term Portrait
6Benedict Arnold, of Newport November 1663 – May 1666  
William Brenton, of Newport May 1666 – 1669  
Benedict Arnold, of Newport 1669 – 1672  
Nicholas Easton, of Newport 1672 – 1674  
William Coddington, of Newport 1674 – 1676  
Walter Clarke, of Newport 1676 – 1677  
7Benedict Arnold, of Newport 1677 – 1678  
8William Coddington, of Newport 1678 – 1678  
9John Cranston, of Newport 1678 – 1680  
Peleg Sanford, of Newport 1680 – 1683  
10William Coddington, Jr., of Newport 1683 – 1685 View Portrait
Henry Bull, of Newport 1685 – 1686  
Walter Clarke, of Newport 1686 - 1686  
11The Royal Charter was suspended from 1686 until 1689.
12Sir Edmund Andros, at Boston, Governor of New England June 3, 1686 -- April 18, 1689

 

Governor Term Portrait
13Vacant May 1689 – February 1690  
14Henry Bull, of Newport February 1690 – May 1690  
15John Easton, of Newport May 1690 – May 1695  
16Caleb Carr, of Newport May 1695 – December 1695  
Walter Clarke, of Newport 1696 – 1698  
17Samuel Cranston, of Newport 1698 – 1727  
Joseph Jencks, of Pawtucket 1727 – 1732  
18William Wanton, of Newport 1732 – 1733  
19John Wanton, of Newport 1734 – 1740  
Richard Ward, of Newport 1740 - 1743 View Portrait
20William Greene, of Warwick 1743 - 1745 View Portrait
Gideon Wanton, of Newport 1745 –1746  
William Greene, of Warwick 1746-1747 View Portrait
Gideon Wanton, of Newport 1747-1748  
William Greene, of Warwick 1748-1755 View Portrait
Stephen Hopkins, of Providence 1755-1757 View Portrait
William Greene, of Warwick 1757-1758 View Portrait
Stephen Hopkins, of Providence 1758-1762 View Portrait
Samuel Ward, of Newport 1762-1763  
Stephen Hopkins, of Providence 1763-1765 View Portrait
Samuel Ward, of Newport 1765-1767  
Stephen Hopkins, Of Providence 1767-1768 View Portrait
Josias Lyndon, of Warren 1768-1769  
Joseph Wanton, of Newport 1769-1775 View Portrait
Nicholas Cooke, of Newport 1775-1778 View Portrait
William Greene Jr., of Providence 1778-1786  
John Collins, of Warwick 1786-1790  
21Arthur Fenner, of Providence 1790-1805 View Portrait
Vacant 1806-1807  
James Fenner , of Providence 1807-1811  
William Jones, of Newport 1811-1817 View Portrait
22Nehmiah R. Knight, of Cranston 1817-1821 View Portrait
William C Gibbs, of Newport 1821-1824  
James Fenner 1824-1831  
23Lemuel H. Arnold of Kingston 1831-1833 View Portrait
John Brown Francis of Warwick 1833-1838 View Portrait
William Sprague of Cranston 1838-1839 View Portrait
Samuel Ward King of Johnston 1839-1843  
24Thomas Wilson Dorr of Providence 1842-1842 View Portrait

 

Governors under the Constitution of 1842

Governor Political Affiliation Term Portrait
James Fenner Law and Order 1843-1845  
Charles Jackson Liberation 1845-1846  
Byron Diman Law and Order 1846-1847 View Portrait
Elisha Harris Whig 1847-1849  
Henry B. Anthony Whig 1849-1851  
25Philip Allen Democrat 1851-1853  
Francis M. Dimond Democrat 1853-1854 View Portrait
William W. Hoppin Whig and Know-Nothing 1854-1857  
Elisha Dyer Republican 1857-1859
Thomas G. Turner Republican 1859-1860 View Portrait
26William Sprague, 2nd Democrat & Conservative 1860-1863 View Portrait
27William C. Cozzens Democrat 1863-1863  
James Y. Smith Republican 1863-1866 View Portrait
Ambrose E. Burnside Republican 1866-1869 View Portrait
Seth Padelford Republican 1869-1873 View Portrait
Henry Howard Republican 1873-1875 View Portrait
Henry Lippitt Republican 1875-1877 View Portrait
Charles C. Van Zandt Republican 1877-1880 View Portrait
Alfred H. Littlefield Republican 1880-1883  
Augustus O. Bourn Republican 1883-1885 View Portrait
George P. Wetmore Republican 1885-1887  
28John W. Davis Democrat 1887-1888  
Royal C. Taft Republican 1888-1889 View Portrait
29Herbert W. Ladd Republican 1889-1890 View Portrait
28John W. Davis Democrat 1890-1891  
29Herbert W. Ladd Republican 1891-1892 View Portrait
D. Russell Brown Republican 1892-1895 View Portrait
Charles W. Lippitt Republican 1895-1897 View Portrait
Elisha Dyer, Jr. Republican 1897-1900 View Portrait
30William Gregory Republican 1900-1901 View Portrait
Charles D. Kimball Republican 1901-1903 View Portrait
Lucius F. C. Garvin Democrat 1903-1905 View Portrait
George H. Utter Republican 1905-1907 View Portrait
James H. Higgins Democrat 1907-1909 View Portrait
31Aram J. Pothier Republican 1909-1915 View Portrait
R. Livingston Beeckman Republican 1915-1921 View Portrait
Emery J. San Souci Republican 1921-1923 View Portrait
William S. Flynn Democrat 1923-1925  
31Aram J. Pothier Republican 1925-1928 View Portrait
Norman S. Case Republican 1928-1933 View Portrait
Theodore Francis Green Democrat 1933-1937 View Portrait
Robert E. Quinn Democrat 1937-1939 View Portrait
William Henry Vanderbilt III Republican 1939-1941 View Portrait
32J. Howard McGrath Democrat 1941-1945  
33John Orlando Pastore Democrat 1945-1950 View Portrait
John S. McKiernan Democrat 1950-1951 View Portrait
Dennis J. Roberts Democrat 1951-1959 View Portrait
Christopher Del Sesto Republican 1959-1961  
John A. Notte, Jr Democrat 1961-1963 View Portrait
John Hubbard Chafee Republican 1963-1969 View Portrait
Frank Licht Democrat 1969-1973  
Philip W. Noel Democrat 1973-1977 View Portrait
J. Joseph Garrahy Democrat 1977-1985  
Edward D. DiPrete Republican 1985-1991 View Portrait
Bruce Sundlun Democrat 1991-1995 View Portrait
34Lincoln C. Almond Republican 1995-2003 View Portrait
Donald Carcieri Republican 2003- 2011  
Lincoln D. Chafee Democrat 2011- Present  

Notes:

1. William Coddington was elected, but the General Court would not engage him, for failure to clear himself of certain accusations. top
2. President for Providence and Warwick only. top
3. In 1651, a separation occurred between the towns of Providence and Warwick on the one side, which continued the government under the Parliamentary Patent of 1643, and Newport and Portsmouth on the other, which formed a new government under the authority of a commission that had been granted to William Coddington, appointing him proprietary Governor-for-life of the islands of Rhode Island (Aquidneck) and Conanicut (Jamestown). This commission was granted on April 3, 1651 by the Council of State of the Commonwealth of England. top
4. Late in 1651, Roger Williams and John Clarke sailed to England. Williams was seeking the re-affirmation of the 1643 Patent, and Clarke had been asked by residents of Newport and Portsmouth to obtain an annulment of William Coddington’s commission. On October 2, 1652, the Council of State granted their requests. top
5. Under the Royal Charter, the government consisted of a Governor, a Deputy Governor, and ten Assistants. top
6. First Governor elected under the Royal Charter, November 25, 1663. top
7. Died in office, June 20, 1678. top
8. Died in office, November 1, 1678. top
9. Died in office, March 12, 1680. top
10. Elected Governor in May of 1685, but refused to be engaged. Henry Bull elected in his place. top
11. On June 3, 1686, King James II appointed Sir Edmund Andros to be Governor of New England, and on September 13, 1686, instructed him to demand the surrender of Rhode Island’s Royal Charter. The government of Rhode Island swore allegiance to Sir Edmund Andros, but managed to avoid the surrender of the Royal Charter. top
12. King James II was deposed on Dec. 10, 1688. King William III and his wife, Queen Mary, were crowned as joint sovereigns of England on April 11, 1689. The governorship of Sir Edmund Andros was overthrown on April 18, 1689. On May 1, 1689, the Rhode Island Assembly met in Newport and ordered that the persons elected in May of 1686 should resume their offices. top
13. John Coggeshall resumed the office of Deputy Governor, but Walter Clarke did not resume the office of Governor that he had been elected to in 1686. top
14. Elected by the General Assembly on Feb. 26, 1690. Walter Clarke, followed by Christopher Almy, were elected in succession, and both men refused to serve. top
15. On May 7, 1690, Henry Bull refused re-election. John Easton was elected to replace him. top
16. Died in office, December 17, 1695. top
17. Longest term of office - Samuel Cranston of Newport - 29 years. Died in office, April 26, 1727. top
18. Died in office, December 7, 1733. top
19. Died in office, July 5, 1740. top
20. Died in office February 22, 1758. top
21. Died in office October 15, 1805. top
22. Elected U.S. Senator, January 9, 1821. top
23. In 1832 there was no election for governor, lieutenant governor, or senators. Elections were successively ordered for May 16, July 18, August 28, and November 21, 1832, resulting without choice. At the January session, 1833, the officers who had not been re-elected in 1832 were continued in office, until the next session. top
24. Elected by a convention of “The People” in 1842. He was convicted of treason after having led an unsuccessful rebellion in June of 1842. His legal rights were restored in 1854. top
25. Resigned July 20, 1853, having been elected United States Senator on May 4, 1853. top
26. Resigned March 3, 1863 to become United States Senator. top
27. William Cozzens was President of the Senate. He became Governor upon the resignation of William Sprague, 2nd. The Lieutenant Governor, Samuel Arnold, having been elected United States Senator upon the resignation of Senator James Simmons. top
28. Served two non-consecutive terms. top
29. Served two non-consecutive terms. top
30. Died in office, December 16, 1901. top
31. Served two Non-consecutive terms. Died in office, February 3, 1928. top
32. Resigned to become United States Senator. top
33. Resigned to become United States Senator. top
34. The Rhode Island Constitution was changed in 1992 to limit Rhode Island Governors to two consecutive four-year terms. top

Sources:

  • Rhode Island Colonial Records, 1636 – 1792
  • Rhode Island Acts & Resolves
  • Rhode Island Manuals, 1867 – 2004
  • All published by the Office of the Secretary of State of Rhode Island.