History of North Carolina Treasurers
During the early days of the Carolina Colony, a Treasurer’s Court was established in 1669 to handle public money. The office of the Treasurer was created by the legislature and appointments to the office were made by the lower house of the Colonial Assembly. Between 1777 and 1779 there was one treasurer for each of the northern and southern districts. Four additional treasurers were added in 1779, and another in 1782, for a total of seven treasurers each serving a specifically defined geographical region of the state.
In 1784, the General Assembly eliminated the multiple districts and assigned the duties of the office to a single State Treasurer elected by a joint vote of both houses for a two-year term. This arrangement continued until 1868, when a new state constitution provided that the State Treasurer would be popularly elected by the people of North Carolina for a four-year term.
The Treasurers listed below are those that have been appointed or elected since the office became a statewide office in 1784.
Dave R. Folwell, CPA was a four-term member of the N.C. House of Representatives, including two years as Speaker Pro Tempore. During that time, he sponsored 29 major pieces of legislation enacted with bi-partisan support.
More recently, he was Assistant Secretary of Commerce with the Division of Employment Security, where he took the most “broke and broken” unemployment system in the United States and turned it into a national leader in debt-repayment, quality and customer service.
He is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with a Masters in Accounting. Married for 28 years with three children, he lives in Winston-Salem.
Janet Cowell (born 1968) is the state's 27th elected Treasurer and the first woman to win the post. The daughter of a Methodist minister and public school teacher, Cowell grew up in the Southeast until attending college at the University of Pennsylvania where she graduated with Honors. Cowell also holds a Master of Business Administration degree from the Wharton School of Business, as well as a Master's degree in International Studies from the Lauder Institute.
Cowell worked as a financial analyst with organizations including HSBC Bank and Lehman Brothers in New York and international offices before making her home in North Carolina in 1997. She was elected to Raleigh City Council in 2001 and the North Carolina State Senate in 2004. During this time, she earned two Legislator of the Year awards including Environmental Legislator of the Year as a Senator. In 2008, Cowell was elected North Carolina Treasurer.
Under her leadership, North Carolina maintained a AAA bond rating throughout her first term. Cowell was re-elected Treasurer in 2012.
Richard H. Moore (born 1960) grew up in a politically active family in Oxford. He served three years as a federal prosecutor in North Carolina’s Eastern District, one term in the state House of Representatives and four years as secretary of crime control and public safety under Gov. Jim Hunt. After considering a run for lieutenant governor, he was elected Treasurer in 2000 and again in 2004.
In 2008, he sought the Democratic nomination for governor, but lost to then-Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue. He was appointed to the executive board of the New York Stock Exchange as the only public sector member, and has served on the board of NYSE Regulation since its inception in 2005. Moore earned both his undergraduate and law degrees from Wake Forest University, and a graduate diploma in accounting and finance from the London School of Economics. After leaving office, Moore was named to the Board of Trustees of Wake Forest University. (News & Observer)
Harlan E. Boyles (1929 –2003) grew up in Lincoln County, where his father farmed and owned a country store. He attended the University of Georgia before transferring to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he earned an accounting degree in 1951. Boyles began working for the state in the Department of Revenue and later for the Tax Study Commission. For 16 years, he was Deputy State Treasurer for Treasurer Edwin M. Gill. When Gill retired, Boyles ran for the office in the 1976 election and won. He was re-elected in 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992 and 1996, for a total of 24 years in office.
Throughout Boyles' tenure as State Treasurer, North Carolina maintained its AAA rating, saving the state millions of dollars. In addition, 25 percent of all local governments receiving AAA ratings were located in North Carolina when he retired in 2001. Among his many honors, Boyles was named Public Official of the Year by Governing Magazine and was presented with Distinguished Service Awards from both the N.C. Citizens for Business & Industry and the N.C. Association of County Commissioners. Boyles passed away on January 23, 2003, at his home in Raleigh after a battle with cancer. The General Assembly unanimously passed a special resolution memorializing Boyles upon his death.
Edwin M. Gill (1899-1978) was born in Laurinburg. He studied law at Trinity College, now Duke University, from 1922 to 1924, when he passed the bar examination. He established a private law practice before being elected to represent Scotland County in the General Assembly in 1929 and 1931. During his time in the legislature, he was a member of subcommittees that drafted the state’s local government act and the bill authorizing the state to take over the construction and maintenance of county roads.
In 1931, he became private secretary to Gov. O. Max Gardner. In 1933, Gov. John Ehringhaus appointed Gill to head the newly created N.C. Paroles Commission, a position he filled until 1942. He then served as commissioner of revenue from 1942 to 1949. Gill was appointed collector of internal revenue by President Harry S. Truman in 1950, but left the post when he was appointed State Treasurer in 1953. Under his direction, the state attained the highest possible credit rating. Gill served as Treasurer until he retired in 1976. In his later years, he took a deep interest in painting and served as a member of the board of trustees of the N.C. Museum of Art.
Brandon P. Hodges, an attorney from Buncombe County, represented the 31st District in the N.C. Senate from 1943 to 1945. He was chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee in 1945 and a member of the Advisory Budget Commission the following year. In 1947, Gov. Gregg Cherry named Hodges his executive general counsel. He served as chairman of the Board of Trustees of Western Carolina Teachers College and also as a member of the State Education Commission from 1947 to 1948.
Hodges was elected State Treasurer in 1948, but resigned just six months into his second term to return to private business as counsel to Champion Paper and Fibre Company. He was appointed chairman of the state's first modern day Tax Study Commission in 1955 and chairman of the State Property Tax Commission in 1957.
Charles M. Johnson (1891-1964) was born in Burgaw. After leaving school, he was employed for a year as assistant cashier in the Wilmington office of the Atlantic Coast Line Railway and then became traveling auditor for the Hilton Dodge Lumber Company in Savannah, Ga. When he returned home, he was deputy clerk of court for Pender County for seven years, followed by 18 months as district tax supervisor.
He spent more than five years in various positions in the State Auditor’s Office. He was then appointed secretary to the County Government Advisory Commission, where he became familiar with the concerns and issues of local governments in the state. He was appointed the first director of the Local Government Commission, which was created by the legislature in 1931 to help local governments that were in default as a result of the Great Depression.
Upon the resignation of John Stedman in 1932, Johnson was named State Treasurer by Gov. O. Max Gardner. He served for 16 years before running unsuccessfully for governor in 1948, losing in the primary to W. Kerr Scott. Johnson later became executive vice president of the Bank of Charlotte.
John P. Stedman served as State Treasurer for 11 months during one of the nation’s most challenging crises – the Great Depression. He was only 37 years old at the time of his appointment, making him one of the youngest men to hold the position.
Following his brief term as Treasurer, after which he did not seek a second term, he worked for a number of banks, becoming president of the Scottish Bank in Lumberton in 1939. He was president of the N.C. Bankers Association from 1953 to 1954, and was appointed by Gov. Luther Hodges to the State Banking Commission in 1957. He served until 1963.
Nathan O’Berry was born in Tarboro, the son of a flour miller and railroad official. He later moved to Goldsboro, where he founded the Enterprise Lumber Company. He established the highly successful Whiteville Lumber Company and, in 1910, was one of the principal organizers and first president of the Empire Manufacturing Company. He also served as director of Wayne National Bank and was president of both the N.C. Pine Association and N.C. Forestry Association. From 1925 to 1929, he served as chairman of a state hospital for the mentally ill in Goldsboro. His achievements were so significant that a complex, the O’Berry Center, was named in his honor. Appointed by Gov. O. Max Gardner to fill Benjamin Lacy’s unexpired term, O’Berry died before he could seek reelection.
Benjamin Rice Lacy (1854–1929) was born in the Presbyterian manse in Raleigh. His father, Rev. Drury Lacy, later served as president of Davidson College. Financially unable to attend college, Lacy served as an apprentice in the shops of the Raleigh and Gaston Railroad. He became foreman, gaining the confidence of railroad workers and executives alike. He later served as alderman and commissioner of labor and printing before being elected State Treasurer in 1901. During his time as Treasurer, the state embarked on an unprecedented program of financial expansion and industrial improvements. Lacy died shortly after taking office for his eighth term as Treasurer. Davidson College awarded him an honorary doctor of laws degree a year before his death.
William H. Worth (1839-1931), a native of Guilford County, began his career as a clerk in the John M. Worth mercantile establishment in Burlington. When the Civil War began, he declined military service due to his Quaker convictions and worked for the N.C. Railroad Company.
After serving as assessor of internal revenue for the Third North Carolina District from 1866 to 1870, Worth moved to Lenoir County and became a successful farmer. He served in the N.C. Farmers Alliance until being elected State Treasurer in 1894. He was defeated by Benjamin R. Lacy in 1900. At the end of his term as Treasurer, it was discovered that the account of one of his clerks was short $12,000. When he learned of the matter, Worth paid back the loss with his own funds. He retired to his family home in Guilford County, where he practiced horticulture. His garden, orchard and vineyard became local showplaces.
Samuel McDowell Tate (1830-1897) was a Civil War veteran, railroad official and legislator born in Morganton. After establishing himself as a merchant in Philadelphia, Tate returned to Burke County in 1850 and set up a successful business in merchandise.
He worked as an agent and manager of financial interests during the construction of the first section of the Western North Carolina Railroad. During this time he served as a federal census taker for Burke County and was postmaster of Morganton from 1856 to 1860. In 1861, he was appointed captain in the Confederate Army, eventually leading a regiment at Cemetery Hill and in the battle on Seminary Ridge.
When he returned to Morganton, he was elected president of the Western North Carolina Railroad. In 1874 he was elected to the N.C. House of Commons from Burke County, where he served as chair of the finance committee. He was appointed examiner of national banks in the district extending from West Virginia to Florida before being appointed State Treasurer in 1892.
Donald W. Bain (1841-1892) was a descendant of mid-eighteenth century Scotch-Irish immigrants who had settled in the Wilmington area. At the age of 16, he became the youngest clerk in the state comptroller’s office, beginning 35 years of service with the office.
In 1865, he accepted an appointment as chief clerk of the N.C. Treasury Department, serving in the post almost 20 years. 1867, he succeeded his father as grand secretary of the North Carolina Masons. He won his first four-year term as Treasurer in 1884, and served until his death from heart disease nine days after his third electoral victory at the age of 52.
John Milton Worth was the younger brother of Jonathan Worth, who served as the state's Treasurer and Governor during the 1860s. John Worth served several terms in the N.C. Senate, representing Moore and Montgomery Counties in the 1840s. In 1870, he was elected state Senator from Randolph County. In November 1876, Worth was elected by the people to a four-year term as Treasurer. When incumbent David Jenkins resigned before the end of his term, Gov. Curtis H. Brogden named Worth to fill the post a few months early. Worth was reelected in 1880, serving just over four more years.
After leaving public service, Worth became president of the Bank of Randolph and of the Southern Stock Mutual Fire Insurance Company. His Worth Manufacturing Company operated cotton mills in Randolph County, not far from where the N.C. Zoological Park is located today. By the time of his death in 1900 at age 90, he had become one of the State's wealthiest citizens.
David A. Jenkins (1822–1886) served as State Treasurer while North Carolina’s battered economy was recovering from the fallout of the Civil War. He was born in Lincoln (now Gaston) County, and is said to have started teaching at age 14. He also chopped and sold wood, did farm work, and split rails. As a result of his hard work and economy, he became prosperous and highly respected. He was elected to the office of constable and later to the office of magistrate.
In 1866, he was elected to the General Assembly, where he served for two years before winning the election for State Treasurer. He was reelected in 1872, serving two four-year terms. Friends urged him to seek the Republican nomination for governor in 1880, but he declined to do so.
Kemp P. Battle (1831 –1919) graduated valedictorian from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1849. He was admitted to the bar in 1854 and began a practice in Raleigh. In 1857, he was named a director of the rechartered Bank of North Carolina and in 1861 was a delegate to the Secession Convention. During the Civil War he served as president of the Chatham Railroad, which was organized to haul coal from the mines in Chatham County to Confederate armament factories. In 1862, Battle was elected by the legislature to serve as a trustee of the university and held this position until 1868, when the entire board was discharged by the Reconstruction General Assembly.
He was elected Treasurer by the legislature in 1866 but removed from office in 1868 by the occupying U.S. military authorities because of his service to the Confederacy. In 1874, Battle was reappointed a trustee to the university and was named president of the university in 1876. He served as president until 1891, when he resigned to become alumni professor of history. He compiled a significant body of scholarly work, including a two-volume History of the University of North Carolina.
William Sloan served the briefest term of any State Treasurer, from when he was appointed by the provisional governor in November 1865 to when elected officials took office in January 1866. He served as the delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1865-1866 and was chairman of the convention’s redistricting committee.
As Treasurer, Sloan was accused of selling a large quantity of the state’s cotton to a business partner at prices well below market value. Following his brief term as Treasurer, he became president of the Wilmington, Charlotte and Rutherford Railroad, where he was implicated in the widespread railroad bond frauds that occurred during the Reconstruction period.
Jonathan Worth (1802 –1869) served as State Treasurer during the early years of Reconstruction following the Civil War. A native of Randolph County, Worth moved to Hillsborough in 1823 to study law. He established a law practice in Asheboro and, in 1830, ran for a seat in the N.C. House of Representatives from Randolph County. He served two terms in the House before taking a break from public service to build his law practice. He was then elected to the N.C. Senate, where he wrote the law that established the basic structure of the public school system. He served for 20 years as the superintendent of schools in Randolph County. He ran twice for Congress, both times unsuccessfully.
In 1858, Worth was again elected to the N.C. Senate, where he was made chairman of a committee to investigate the poorly-run North Carolina Railroad. After accepting the position of State Treasurer, Worth had the unhappy duty of issuing notes and bonds to finance the state's share of its war debt. In 1865, Worth became the only statewide Treasurer to be elected Governor. He died 14 months after leaving office as Governor and is buried in Historic Oakwood Cemetery.
Served non-consecutive terms. See full biography below.
Served non-consecutive terms. See full biography below.
John Hill Wheeler (1806-1882) was a politician and historian who served not only as State Treasurer, but also as the United States Minister to Nicaragua from 1855 to 1856. Born in Murfreesboro, Wheeler earned a bachelor's degree at Columbian College (now George Washington University), was admitted to the bar in 1827, and the following year received a master's degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
He was elected to the N.C. House of Commons from Hertford County at age 21, serving four years, and was elected to the House from Lincoln County years later. In 1837, President Andrew Jackson appointed him superintendent of the federal mint in Charlotte. He became an assistant secretary to President Franklin Pierce in 1854 and shortly thereafter was appointed minister to Nicaragua. He spent much of his later life in minor federal government posts, and wrote or edited several books on state history.
Charles L. Hinton (1793-1861) was born at the Oaks plantation about 10 miles east of Raleigh. He was a member of the House of Commons and a senator from Wake County. He also served as a member of the commissions for rebuilding the State Capitol and for building a state hospital. He was a commissioner for the sale of Indian lands and for 11 years served as State Treasurer of North Carolina. He was also a trustee of the University of North Carolina for 28 years.
Daniel W. Courts (1800-1883) was born in Culpeper County, Va., and moved with his father to Rockingham County in 1806. After graduating from the University of North Carolina, he began to practice law in Rockingham County, serving a term as county attorney. After moving to Surry County, he served in the House of Commons for four terms in 1831 through 1833 and again in 1836. In the last session he was elected State Treasurer, a position he held for two years until he resigned to take an appointment by President Martin Van Buren as U.S. consul at Matanzas, Cuba. He returned to Rockingham County and was elected to the House of Commons in 1846 and 1848 and the N.C. Senate in 1850. He was again elected Treasurer, serving until 1863 when he was defeated by Jonathan Worth.
Samuel Finley Patterson (1799–1874) was a politician, planter, and businessman. Born in Rockbridge County, Va., Patterson went to live with his uncle in Wilkesboro, N.C., in 1811. After working several years as a store clerk and later heading his own business, he won the position of engrossing clerk of the N.C. House of Commons at the age of 22.
In 1835 he became chief clerk of the State Senate, and from 1835 to1837 served as Treasurer of North Carolina. He returned to Caldwell County in 1845 when his father-in-law died, and was elected chairman of the county court. He later served as a member of the State Senate in 1846 and 1848, a member of the House of Commons in 1854, and a delegate to the second session of the state’s constitutional convention in 1866.
Other offices Patterson held included president of the Raleigh and Gaston Railroad, justice of the peace, major general in the state militia, Indian commissioner, trustee of the University of North Carolina, and various positions with the Masons. His son, Samuel Legerwood Patterson, served as N.C. Commissioner of Agriculture.
William S. Mhoon was elected Treasurer by the legislature in 1830 after Robert Burton, who was originally elected, refused to serve. Mhoon served two two-year terms, declining to run for reelection after his second term. He had represented Bertie County in the N.C. House of Commons in 1828, 1829, 1830 and 1831. Between 1825 and 1835, he served on the Committee of Appointments to Manage Western Lands at the University of North Carolina. He was also appointed one of the initial commissioners to supervise the rebuilding of the State Capitol on Union Square in 1832.
William S. Robards succeeded John Haywood and faced the unhappy duty of presiding over an office clouded with controversy after the shortages in the accounts of his predecessor were uncovered. He was a member of the N.C. General Assembly in 1806 and 1808, representing Granville County, where he also served as county attorney. Following a single term as Treasurer, Robards declined to run for reelection and instead served for many years as clerk of the N.C. Supreme Court.
John Haywood (1755-1827) was the longest-serving N.C. State Treasurer, serving 40 years from 1787 to his death. A native of Edgecombe County, Haywood began public service in 1781 as clerk of the N.C. Senate. He held this office for five years, after which he was elected Treasurer by the state legislature. When a law was passed requiring state officials to live in the capital city, he built Haywood Hall on New Bern Street, which to this day remains a popular venue for events. Haywood was also named one of seven commissioners responsible for governing the city of Raleigh when it was chartered by the General Assembly in 1795.
As one of the original trustees of the University of North Carolina, he was a member of the building committee that was responsible for the construction of the first building on the campus. He served on the university board until his death. After he died, nearly $69,000, more than half of the state’s annual budget, was discovered missing. Although Haywood was cleared of any wrongdoing by the legislature, most of his assets were seized by the state to settle the shortage.
Memucan Hunt (1729–1808) was an early American statesman and the first person to hold the position of State Treasurer when it became a statewide rather than a district office. A native of Virginia, Memucan Hunt settled in a plantation in what is now Vance County. At the age of 41, he was chosen Sergeant-at-Arms of the colonial N.C. General Assembly and in 1773 was elected as Representative to the Assembly from Granville County.
In 1774, in response to the rising spirit of colonial rebellion, Hunt and other freeholders supported the call for a provincial Congress. When it was convened, he served as one of five delegates from Granville County. In 1777, Hunt was appointed Treasurer of the Hillsborough district and was elected to the N.C. Senate in 1779, serving as a member of the Committee of Accounts. He was appointed State Treasurer in 1784, at a salary of 500 pounds per year. After he retired as Treasurer, he became a wealthy planter and served as justice of the peace until
Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, William S. Powell, University of North Carolina Press, 1994.
Keeper of the Public Purse, Harlan E. Boyles, Appalachian State University, 1994.
Cyclopedia of Eminent and Representative Men of the Carolinas of the Nineteenth Century, Edward McGrady and Samuel A. Ashe, Madison, Wis., Brant & Fuller, 1892.