Gerard C. Brandon was the first native Mississippian elected the state’s governor. He also held the state’s top office longer than any other governor before the Civil War and served as governor twice before being elected to the post. As lieutenant governor he assumed the governorship in 1825 after the death of Walter Leake and again in 1826 when David Holmes resigned because of failing health. In 1827, while completing Holmes’s term, Brandon was elected governor; he won reelection two years later.
Brandon was born at Selma Plantation in Adams County in September 1788 and was educated at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) and the College of William and Mary. He practiced law in Washington, Mississippi’s territorial capital, and was a successful planter in Adams County. A veteran of the War of 1812, Brandon served as a delegate to the state constitutional convention of 1817 and helped draft Mississippi’s first constitution. He also served in the state legislature and was elected Speaker of the House in 1822.
Brandon was the chief executive of Mississippi at the beginning of a prosperous era known as the Flush Times. The period was also called the “Era of the Common Man” because the right to vote and the right to hold office were extended to all white males, even those who did not own any property.
Two major Indian land cessions finalized during his administration, the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek (1831) and the Treaty of Pontotoc Creek (1832), made several million acres of good cotton land available for settlement, and Mississippi soon became the heartland of the Cotton Kingdom. The rapid development of the newly acquired territory required a road system into the interior parts of the state, and Brandon promoted the construction of roads, bridges, and turnpikes as well as the development of water transportation to facilitate that settlement. Brandon also oversaw the beginning of a transportation revolution in 1831 when the state chartered its first railroad.
After the acquisition of the Indian lands, the Mississippi legislature created several new counties in North Mississippi. The addition of those new counties and the extension of suffrage to all white males, along with other social and political changes, made Mississippi’s 1817 constitution outdated. In 1831 the people voted by a margin of four to one in favor of a new constitution. The next year a convention assembled in Jackson and drafted a much more democratic constitution. Brandon, whose term as governor had just expired, represented Adams County at that convention. It was his last act of public service. For the remainder of his life, Brandon lived on his Columbian Springs Plantation in Adams County, where he died on 28 March 1850. Brandon, the seat of Rankin County, is named in his honor.
- Mississippi Official and Statistical Register (1912)
- Dunbar Rowland, Encyclopedia of Mississippi History, vol. 1 (1907)