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William Woods Holden, 1818-1892


William Woods Holden, 1818-1892


William Woods Holden was appointed Governor of North Carolina by President Andrew Jackson following the conclusion of the Civil War; and was elected Governor in 1868 while running on the Republican Ticket. His first elected term as Governor saw Holden continuously combating the Ku Klux Klan and their rise throughout the state. Governor Holden would become the first state Governor to ever be impeached from office in American History.


William Woods Holden was the Governor of North Carolina throughout the period of our nation's history known as Reconstruction. Governor Holden would become to be the first state governor to be impeached and subsequently convicted, in American history. Being the Governor of North Carolina during these years proved to be a daunting task in that the South after the Civil War was in shambles. The South soon witnessed the rise of masked night riders, or more commonly known as the Ku Klux Klan, which would become Governor Holden’s greatest political enemy. No reference needs to be made regarding the activities of the KKK, but in reaction to their atrocities, Governor Holden suspended the writ of habeas corpus and ordered the use of troops in counties, such as Alamance and Orange, to combat and imprison known affiliates with the KKK. The ordering of troops and martial law in these counties would come to be known among locals as the Kirk-Holden War.
As the Governor of North Carolina, it was Holden’s job to ensure that the state adhere to the changing times in the South following the end of the Civil War and into Reconstruction, but faced many obstacles in doing so. The Ku Klux Klan was intricately tied to a large majority of local authorities and governments, having local officials as members who were not only able to bring terror at night, but terror politically as well. Governor Holden’s image was subsequently tarnished among North Carolinians following his impeachment, but Holden’s actions were forced. His mannerisms in which he attacked the Ku Klux Klan were none the least, necessary in trying to prevent the spread of the terror brought about by the KKK, but ultimately, Holden would become the defeated, rather than the victor. (Folk 1982, 199-234)


Folk, Edgar E., and Bynum Shaw. "Ten and Eleven." In W. W. Holden: A Political Biography, 199-234. Winston-Salem: John F. Blair, 1982.

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Alex Parsons

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William Woods Holden, 1818-1892, Civil War Era NC, accessed June 16, 2024,