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William Savin Fulton

On this day in 1795, William Savin Fulton was born to Irish-born David and Maryland native Elizabeth Fulton. Owing to his mother’s wealth, Fulton was provided with a formal education in 1803 and attended Baltimore College in 1813 before practicing law in 1817. 

Fulton served as a corporal in the Baltimore Fencibles, an elite volunteer unit, alongside his father during the War of 1812. In 1815, Fulton traveled to Florida to serve as private secretary to family friend General Andrew Jackson in the Seminole Wars. After this service, Fulton moved to Tennessee and on to Alabama where he practiced law and wrote editorials for the Democratic newspaper in Florence, Alabama. After he was elected judge of Lauderdale County, Fulton’s extended family joined him from Maryland. Fulton wed his first cousin, Matilda Frances Nowland, in 1823.

In 1829, Fulton was appointed by President Andrew Jackson as the secretary to the territory of Arkansas, replacing the Whig candidate, Robert Crittenden. Fulton and his family arrived in Arkansas in the summer of 1829, and he immediately took over the job as acting governor in the absence of Governor John Pope. During Pope’s frequent absences from Arkansas, Fulton often acted as governor or traveled between Washington DC and Little Rock on territorial business.

Fulton was appointed Arkansas’s last territorial governor by President Andrew Jackson in 1835 and served as Arkansas’s first junior senator after statehood in 1836 until his death on August 15, 1844. He is most often associated with the Democratic Party, and when serving as governor, he surrounded himself with controversy by opposing immediate statehood for Arkansas.

Fulton was generally opposed to statehood on the grounds that neither the people nor the resources were ready. As a result, he received a great deal of criticism from politicians, newspapers, and the public. Despite this, the state legislature elected Fulton to the U.S. Congress as the junior senator from Arkansas in 1836. In Washington DC, Fulton joined his friend, Senator Ambrose Sevier, where he spent most of his time until his death. Fulton suffered a premature death in the late fall of 1844.

According to family lore, he slept in a newly painted room on one of his visits to Rosewood, Fulton’s property in Little Rock that included several lots on the present-day site of the Arkansas governor’s mansion. He died mysteriously afterwards and was buried in Little Rock’s Mount Holly Cemetery. Learn more about Fulton and his legacy at the Encyclopedia of Arkansas