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William Gannaway Brownlow

Personal data
Date of birthAugust 29, 1805
Place of birthWythe County, Virginia
Date of deathApril 29, 1877(age 71)
Place of deathKnoxville, Tennessee
Political partyRepublican
ReligionMethodist
In officeMarch 4, 1869 - March 4, 1875
Succeeded byAndrew Johnson
Preceded byDavid T. Patterson
20th Governor of Tennessee
In officeApril 5, 1865 - February 25, 1869
Succeeded byDeWitt Clinton Senter
Preceded byAndrew Johnson

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William Gannaway "Parson" Brownlow (August 29, 1805 - April 29, 1877) was an American newspaper editor, minister, and politician who served as Governor of the state of Tennessee from 1865 to 1869 and as a United States Senator from Tennessee from 1869 to 1875. Brownlow's uncompromising and radical viewpoints and his relentless invectives against his opponents made him one of the most divisive figures in Tennessee political history and one of the most controversial politicians of the Reconstruction-era South. His gubernatorial policies, which have been described as both autocratic and progressive, helped Tennessee become the first former Confederate state to be readmitted to the Union after the U.S. Civil War. His policy of enfranchising former slaves brought him into conflict with the newly formed Ku Klux Klan and its leader, Nathan Bedford Forrest, which arose from disenfanchised ex-Confederate elements.

Brownlow often boasted that he was "never neutral" on any issue. Beginning his career as a Methodist circuit rider in the 1820s, Brownlow was both censured and praised by his superiors for his vicious verbal attacks against missionaries from other religions (primarily Baptist and Presbyterian) as they competed for converts across Southern Appalachia. As a newspaper editor, he became notorious for his relentless personal attacks against his religious and political opponents, sometimes to the point of being physically assaulted, while at the same time building a large base of fiercely loyal subscribers. At the onset of the Civil War, he blasted both abolitionists and secessionists alike, going so far as to claim that both groups were on the same side. As governor he adopted the stance of the Radical Republicans and spent much of his term opposing the policies of his longtime political foe Andrew Johnson.


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