Tilghman Mayfield Tucker and his first wife, Sarah F. McBee Tucker, were the first residents of the Mississippi Governor’s Mansion, and the formal opening of the mansion made his inauguration on 10 January 1842 especially festive. But Tucker was a plain man of simple tastes. He did not enjoy the ceremonial and social trappings of public office, and, to the great disappointment of Jackson residents, the governor and First Lady rarely entertained at the mansion.
Like many of his contemporaries, Tucker migrated to Mississippi from North Carolina, where he was born on 5 February 1802. Initially a blacksmith, Tucker gave up the trade to read law under Judge Daniel W. Wright in Hamilton, Mississippi, the original seat of Monroe County. After his admission to the bar, Tucker opened a law office in Columbus, the seat of recently established Lowndes County.
Tucker, a Democrat, was elected as the county’s first representative in the state legislature in 1831, serving in the House of Representatives until 1836, when he was elected to the State Senate. In 1841 the Mississippi Democratic Party was bitterly divided over the issue of whether the state should honor bonds from the Planters Bank and Union Bank, both of which had failed during the Panic of 1833. Some Democrats announced that they would support David Shattuck, the Whig candidate for governor, who favored the redemption of the bonds. When Tucker was offered the Democratic nomination for governor, he at first declined to run but was eventually persuaded to undertake what appeared to be a hopeless campaign. However, Tucker won in a very close election.
The bond issue kept the Democratic Party divided during Tucker’s administration, and his term in office was an unhappy time. Political opponents also attacked Tucker after the state treasurer embezzled forty-four thousand dollars and escaped to Canada while under the guard of a local militia. Although he had removed the treasurer from office and ordered his arrest, Tucker was criticized for his slow response to the rumors that something was amiss in the treasurer’s office.
After leaving the governor’s office, Tucker served one term in the US Congress (1843–45) before retiring from public life and moving to Cottonwood, his plantation home in Louisiana. While visiting his father in Marion County, Alabama, Tucker died on 3 April 1859.
- J. F. H. Claiborne, Mississippi, as a Province, Territory, and State (1880)
- Biographical Directory of the United States Congress (1950)
- Mississippi Official and Statistical Register (1912)
- Dunbar Rowland, Encyclopedia of Mississippi History, vol. 2 (1907)
- David Sansing and Carroll Waller, A History of the Mississippi Governor’s Mansion (1977)