Benton County


Alvin Hawkins, governor of Tennessee from 1881 to 1883 was born in Bath county, Ky., Dec. 2, 1821. When he was about five years of age his parents removed to Maury county, Tenn., and two years later to Carroll county. Alvin attended the common schools, where lie received a good rudi mentary education, which he supplemented by a course of self-•study and reading. in his early (lays he did farm work, learned the blacksmith trade, taught school for a time, read law with B. C. Totten, of Huntingdon, and in 1843 was admitted to the bar. He established himself in Camden, Benton county, where he began the practice of his profession and soon attained, a high position at the bar. In 1853 he was elected to the legislature; was an elector on the Bell and Everett ticket in 1860 was elected to Congress in 1862 as a Unionist, under a proclamation of Andrew Johnson, military governor of the state, but his election was declared irregular and he was not permitted to take his seat. In 1864 he was appointed United States district attorney for the district of Western Tennessee, but resigned the following year to accept the appointment of judge of the supreme court. This office he resigned in the spring of 1868 and retired to private life for a few weeks, when he was appointed consul-general to Havana, Cuba. After serving as consul for a few months he resigned and returned to the United States. In May, 1869, he was elected justice of the supreme court, but the adoption of the new constitution the succeeding year displaced him. After this he turned his attention to railroads and was for some time president of the Nashville & Northwestern Railroad Company. In May, 1880, he was sent as a lay delegate to the general conference of the Methodist Episcopal church, at Cincinnati, and while attending the conference he was nominated by the Republicans of Tennessee, in their state convention, for the office of governor. At that time the Democratic party was divided on the question of the state debt and had two candidates in the field. The result was that Mr. Hawkins was elected by a handsome majority. Two years later he was a candidate for re-election, but in the meantime the Democracy had become united, and he was defeated by William B. Bate, afterward and now United States senator. Governor Hawkins retired to private life and his administration passed into history as one of the cleanest and most progressive in the record of the state.

Transcribed & Contributed by Christine Walters
From the book "Notable Men of Tennessee"

Alvin Hawkins, governor of Tennessee, was born in Bath county, Ky., Dec., 2, l821; son of John M. and Polly G. (Ralston) Hawkins; grandson of John Hawkins, and of English descent. He removed with his parents to Maury county, Tenn., in 1820, and became a resident of Carroll county in 1828. He was employed on a farm in his boyhood and also as a blacksmith in the shop of his father, but acquired a good education and taught school, 1841-42. He was admitted to the bar in 1843, and engaged in practice at Huntingdon, Tenn. He was married Aug. 17, 1847, to Justina M. Ott. He was a member of the general assembly in 1853; an elector on the Bell and Everett ticket in 1860, and in 1862 was elected [p.144] as a Unionist a representative in the 38th congress 1863-65, but was not allowed to take his seat, owing to irregularities in the election. He was U.S. district attorney of the Western district of Tennessee, 1864-65, and judge of the supreme court of Tennessee, 1865-68, and 1869-70. He was appointed U.S. consul-general at Havana in 1868. He was elected on the Republican ticket governor of Tennessee in 1880, serving 1881-83, and was defeated for a second term in 1882. At the expiration of his gubernatorial term he retired to private life, and resumed the practice of his profession at Huntingdon, Tenn.

From The Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans: Volume V, p. 144

Hon. Alvin Hawkins, ex-governor of Tennessee, like his two immediate predecessors, is a native of Kentucky. Mr. Hawkins was born in Bath County, of that State, December 2, 1821. His father, John M. Hawkins, was the descendant of an ancient English family, and quite a number of his early ancestors were prominent in English history. The mother of our subject was Polly G. Ralston, whose mother was a Neely, a family prominent in Indiana and other Western States. Alvin Hawkins is the eldest of thirteen sons, eleven of whom reached man’s estate, and eight of whom are now living. All of them have held important public positions. When Mr. Hawkins was about five years of age he with his parents removed to Maury County, Tenn., and there remained two years. The family then came to Carroll County. The father of our subject died in Carroll County in 1852, greatly respected. The boyhood of Mr. Hawkins was spent assisting his father in the gun shop and attending the country schools, although his mother was his principal teacher at home.

Later in life he engaged in farm labor, and at the age of eighteen became a student at McLemoresville Academy. When twenty years of age Mr. Hawkins entered the law office of Hon. Benjamin C. Totten, and studied under his direction. One year later he was admitted to the bar and became a co-partner in the law practice with Isaac R. Hawkins, and soon gained prominence in the legal profession. He had for his colleagues such men as Parvatt, Allen and James, of Huntingdon; Isaac B. Williams and the Harrises, of Paris; R. P. Raines, of Trenton; McCorry and the Browns, of Jackson, and others. In politics he was formerly a Whig, and is now a Republican. In 1845 he made the race for the Legislature for Benton and Humphreys Counties, but was defeated, owing to the counties being largely Democratic.

In 1847 he was married to Miss Justinia M. Ott, of Murfreesboro, Tenn., by whom he had seven children, but two of whom are now living. In 1853 he was elected to the Legislature, but declined a re-election, and continued his law practice until 1860, when he was nominated presidential elector on the Bell and Everett ticket for his district. In 1864 he was appointed by one of the justices of the supreme court of the United States to the office of district attorney for West Tennessee, and was reappointed in 1865 by President Johnson to the same office. In September of the same year he resigned, and was appointed to a position on the supreme bench of Tennessee, but resigned in 1868 and returned to private life. President Johnson appointed him consul-general of the United States at Havana, but he soon resigned, and in 1869 was elected judge of the supreme court of Tennessee. He joined the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1875, and has held some important positions in that church. In 1880 he was elected governor of Tennessee on the Republican ticket, and was a candidate for re-election in 1882, but was defeated by Gen. William B. Bate. Mr. Hawkins is now engaged in the practice of law at Huntingdon, Carroll Co., Tenn. He made a good governor and judge, and as a lawyer is one of the most prominent in West Tennessee. He is one of the leading citizens of the State, a man of the highest character, and a prominent leader of his political party.

Goodspeeds History of Tennessee