As the gubernatorial elections are upon us, we try to stay topical and look into the list of longest serving United States governors.
10. Albert Ritchie (Democratic)
State - Maryland
Duration - 5,475 days (14 years, 11 months, and 27 days)
Albert Ritchie was the 49th governor of Maryland from 1920 to 1935. He became the first Maryland governor to succeed himself in 1923 and was again re-elected in 1926 and 1930. He made a unsuccessful bid for the 1932 Presidential nomination. In 1934 he ran for a fifth term as Governor but was defeated. His tenure makes him the longest-serving governor of Maryland state and the eighth longest-serving governor in American history.
9. Arthur Fenner (Country)
State - Rhode Island
Duration - 5,642 days (15 years, 5 months, and 14 days)
Arthur Fenner was a prosperous merchant who became the fourth Governor of Rhode Island from 1790 until his death in 1805. He was prominent member of the Country Party which opposed a strong central government. He was very popular among the rural folks and won the elections for sixteen consecutive terms. He has the seventh longest gubernatorial tenure in post-Constitutional U.S. history.
8. Edwin Edwards (Democratic)
State - Louisiana
Duration - 5,784 days (15 years, 10 months)
Edwin Edwards was the 50th governor of Louisiana for four terms (1972–1980, 1984–1988, and 1992–1996). He is the first person to recieve over a million votes in a Louisiana gubernatorial election. In 1992 election he beat former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, with the slogan ‘Better a Lizard than a Wizard.’. He was a flamboyant figure who was accused of corruption for a long time and fianlly in 2001 he was found guilty of racketeering charges and sentenced to ten years in federal prison. He has the sixth longest gubernatorial tenure in post-Constitutional U.S. history.
7. Jim Hunt (Democratic)
State - North Carolina
Duration - 5,840 days (16 years)
Jim Hunt was the 69th and 71st Governor of North Carolina (1977–1985, and 1993–2001). In 1981 Hunt chaired the Hunt Commission, named after himself, which established superdelegates in the Democratic National Convention. He was a vociferous proponent of North Carolina’s tobacco industry even after dangers of tobacco use became clear and when Reagan Administration Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop accused the tobacco industry of directing advertising at children and threatening human lives, Hunt called for his impeachment. He is the longest-serving governor of North Carolina state and the joint sixth longest gubernatorial tenure in post-Constitutional U.S. history.
6. Jim Rhodes (Republican)
State - Ohio
Duration - 5,840 days (16 years)
Jim Rhodes was a Republican politician who served as Governor of Ohio from 1963 to 1971 and again from 1975 to 1983. On May 3, 1970, when he was the Governor of Ohio, Rhodes sent National Guard troops onto the Kent State University campus at the request of Kent, Ohio mayor LeRoy Satrom after the ROTC building was burned down by unknown arsonists the previous night. On May 4, Guardsmen killed four students and wounded nine others. As of 2022, Rhodes was one of only seven U.S. governors to serve four four-year terms in office and is tied for the sixth longest gubernatorial tenure in post-Constitutional U.S. history at 5,840 days.
5. Bill Janklow (Republican)
State - South Dakota
Duration - 5,845 days (16 years, 5 days)
Bill Janklow was a Republican politician who served as Governor of South Dakota from 1979 to 1987 and again from 1995 to 2003. In 1974 Jancita Eagle Deer, accused Janklow of raping her in January 1967. In April 1975, Jancita Eagle Deer was killed at night in a hit-and-run collision which is still unresolved. After her death, Jancita’s step-mother, Delphine Eagle Deer advocated on Jancita’s behalf. Delphine Eagle Deer herself was murdered in an as yet unsolved case about nine months later in 1976. On August 16, 2003, Janklow was involved in a fatal traffic collision, which killed a motorcyclist for which he was sentenced to spend 100 days in jail. Janklow has the fifth-longest gubernatorial tenure in post-Constitutional U.S. history at 5,845 days.
4. Jerry Brown (Democratic)
State - California
Duration - 5,847 days (16 years, 7 days)
Jerry Brown served as the 34th and 39th governor of California from 1975 to 1983 and 2011 to 2019. He is the oldest governor of California and the longest-serving governor in the history of California, surpassing Earl Warren. He is also the fourth longest-serving governor in U.S. history. He attempted to run for U.S. president in 1992 but lost to Bill Clinton in Democratic primary.
3. George Wallace (Democratic)
State - Alabama
Duration - 5,848 days (16 years, 8 days)
George Wallace served as the 45th governor of Alabama for four terms. A staunch segregationist, he is remembered for his quote, ‘Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever.’ He was of the opinion that blacks should not be allowed to vote, serve on juries, or hold public office. He earned national notoriety by standing in front of the entrance of the University of Alabama, blocking the path of black students. While campaigning for president in 1972, he was shot five times by Arthur Bremer, as a result of which he was left paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of his life. He later in life gave up on his segregationist views and apologized for it. Wallace is the third longest-serving governor in U.S. history, having served 5,848 days in office.
2. George Clinton (Democratic-Republican)
State - New York
Duration - 7,635 days days (20 Years and 11 Months)
George Clinton who is considered one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, served as the first governor of New York from 1777 to 1795 and from 1801 to 1804. Even though he was against the creation of the office of the Vice Presidency, as he thought it was an unnecessary position, he ended up serving as the fourth vice president of the United States from 1805 until his death in 1812. He was the longest-serving governor in U.S. history until Terry Branstad surpassed his record in 2015.
1. Terry Branstad (Republican)
State - Iowa
Duration - 8,169 days (22 years, 4 months, and 13 days)
Terry Branstad served as the 39th and 42nd governor of Iowa from 1983 to 1999 and 2011 to 2017. His tenure of 22 years, 4 months, and 13 days makes him the longest-serving governor in American history. Branstad served as the United States Ambassador to China from 2017 to 2020 under President Donald Trump.