List of Governors of Michigan

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Governor of Michigan
Seal of Michigan Governor.svg
Seal of the Governor
Flag of the Governor of Michigan.svg
Flag of the Governor
Gretchen Whitmer Portrait.jpg
Gretchen Whitmer

since January 1, 2019
Style Her Excellency [1]
Residence Michigan Governor's Mansion
Term length Four years, renewable once
PrecursorGovernor of Michigan Territory
Inaugural holder Stevens T. Mason
FormationNovember 3, 1835
Deputy Lieutenant Governor of Michigan

The Governor of Michigan is the head of the executive branch of Michigan's state government and serves as the commander-in-chief of the state's military forces. [2] The governor has a duty to enforce state laws; [3] the power to either approve or veto appropriation bills passed by the Michigan Legislature; [4] the power to convene the legislature; [5] and the power to grant pardons, except in cases of impeachment. [6] He or she is also empowered to reorganize the executive branch of the state government. [7]

Michigan has a republican form of government with three branches of government: the executive branch consisting of the Governor of Michigan and the other independently elected constitutional officers; the legislative branch consisting of the House of Representatives and Senate; and the judicial branch consisting of the one court of justice. The state also allows direct participation of the electorate by initiative, referendum, recall, and ratification.

Commander-in-chief supreme commanding authority of a military

A commander-in-chief, sometimes also called supreme commander, is the person that exercises supreme command and control over an armed forces or a military branch. As a technical term, it refers to military competencies that reside in a country's executive leadership – a head of state or a head of government.

Michigan National Guard

The Michigan National Guard consists of the Michigan Army National Guard and the Michigan Air National Guard.


Michigan was originally part of French and British holdings, and administered by their colonial governors. After becoming part of the United States, numerous areas of what is today Michigan were originally part of the Northwest Territory, Indiana Territory and Illinois Territory, and administered by territorial governors. In 1805, the Michigan Territory was created, and five men served as territorial governors, until Michigan was granted statehood in 1837. Forty-eight individuals have held the position of state governor. The first female governor, Jennifer Granholm, served from 2003 to 2011.

Northwest Territory United States territory (1787-1803)

The Northwest Territory in the United States was formed after the American Revolutionary War, and was known formally as the Territory Northwest of the River Ohio. It was the initial post-colonial Territory of the United States and encompassed most of pre-war British colonial territory west of the Appalachian mountains north of the Ohio River. It included all the land west of Pennsylvania, northwest of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi River below the Great Lakes. It spanned all or large parts of six eventual U.S. States. It was created as a Territory by the Northwest Ordinance July 13, 1787, reduced to Ohio, eastern Michigan and a sliver of southeastern Indiana with the formation of Indiana Territory July 4, 1800, and ceased to exist March 1, 1803, when the southeastern portion of the territory was admitted to the Union as the state of Ohio, and the remainder attached to Indiana Territory.

Indiana Territory territory of the USA between 1800-1816

The Indiana Territory was created by a congressional act that President John Adams signed into law on May 7, 1800, to form an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from July 4, 1800, to December 11, 1816, when the remaining southern portion of the territory was admitted to the Union as the state of Indiana. The territory originally contained approximately 259,824 square miles (672,940 km2) of land, but its size was decreased when it was subdivided to create the Michigan Territory (1805) and the Illinois Territory (1809). The Indiana Territory was the first new territory created from lands of the Northwest Territory, which had been organized under the terms of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.

Illinois Territory territory of the USA between 1809-1818

The Territory of Illinois was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from March 1, 1809, until December 3, 1818, when the southern portion of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of Illinois. Its capital was the former French village of Kaskaskia.

After Michigan gained statehood, governors held the office for a two-year term, until the 1963 Michigan Constitution changed the term to four years. The number of times an individual could hold the office was unlimited until a 1992 constitutional amendment imposed a lifetime term limit of two four-year governorships. The longest-serving governor in Michigan's history was William Milliken, who was promoted from lieutenant governor after Governor George W. Romney resigned, then was elected to three further successive terms.

A term limit is a legal restriction that limits the number of terms an officeholder may serve in a particular elected office. When term limits are found in presidential and semi-presidential systems they act as a method of curbing the potential for monopoly, where a leader effectively becomes "president for life". This is intended to protect a democracy from becoming a de facto dictatorship. Sometimes, there is an absolute or lifetime limit on the number of terms an officeholder may serve; sometimes, the restrictions are merely on the number of consecutive terms he or she may serve.

William Milliken American politician

William Grawn Milliken, is an American politician who served as the 44th Governor of Michigan as a member of the Republican Party. He is the longest serving governor in Michigan history, serving from 1969 to 1983.

George W. Romney American business executive and politician

George Wilcken Romney was an American businessman and Republican Party politician. He was chairman and president of American Motors Corporation from 1954 to 1962, the 43rd Governor of Michigan from 1963 to 1969, and the United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 1969 to 1973. He was the father of Governor of Massachusetts, 2012 Republican presidential nominee and United States Senator from Utah Mitt Romney, husband of 1970 U.S. Senate candidate Lenore Romney, and grandfather of current Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel.


Michigan was part of colonial New France until the Treaty of 1763 transferred ownership to the Kingdom of Great Britain. During this time, it was governed by the Lieutenants General of New France until 1627, the Governors of New France from 1627 to 1663, and the Governors General of New France until the transfer to Great Britain. The 1783 Treaty of Paris ceded the territory that is now Michigan to the United States as part of the end of the Revolutionary War, but British troops were not removed from the area until 1796. During the British ownership, their governors administrated the area as part of the Canadian territorial holdings. [8]

New France Area colonized by France in North America

New France was the area colonized by France in North America during a period beginning with the exploration of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence by Jacques Cartier in 1534 and ending with the cession of New France to Great Britain and Spain in 1763 under the Treaty of Paris (1763).

Treaty of Paris (1763) 1763 treaty that ended the Seven Years War

The Treaty of Paris, also known as the Treaty of 1763, was signed on 10 February 1763 by the kingdoms of Great Britain, France and Spain, with Portugal in agreement, after Great Britain's victory over France and Spain during the Seven Years' War.

Kingdom of Great Britain constitutional monarchy in Western Europe between 1707–1801

The Kingdom of Great Britain, officially called simply Great Britain, was a sovereign state in western Europe from 1 May 1707 to 31 December 1800. The state came into being following the Treaty of Union in 1706, ratified by the Acts of Union 1707, which united the kingdoms of England and Scotland to form a single kingdom encompassing the whole island of Great Britain and its outlying islands, with the exception of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. The unitary state was governed by a single parliament and government that was based in Westminster. The former kingdoms had been in personal union since James VI of Scotland became King of England and King of Ireland in 1603 following the death of Elizabeth I, bringing about the "Union of the Crowns". After the accession of George I to the throne of Great Britain in 1714, the kingdom was in a personal union with the Electorate of Hanover.

Prior to becoming its own territory, parts of Michigan were administered by the governors of the Northwest Territory, the governors of the Indiana Territory and the governors of the Illinois Territory. On June 30, 1805, the Territory of Michigan was created, with General William Hull as the first territorial governor. [8] [9]

Michigan Territory territory of the USA between 1805-1837

The Territory of Michigan was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from June 30, 1805, until January 26, 1837, when the final extent of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of Michigan. Detroit was the territorial capital.

William Hull American soldier and politician

William Hull was an American soldier and politician. He fought in the American Revolutionary War and was appointed as Governor of Michigan Territory (1805–13), gaining large land cessions from several American Indian tribes under the Treaty of Detroit (1807). He is most widely remembered, however, as the general in the War of 1812 who surrendered Fort Detroit to the British on August 16, 1812 following the Siege of Detroit. After the battle, he was court-martialed, convicted, and sentenced to death, but he received a pardon from President James Madison and his reputation somewhat recovered.

Governors of the Territory of Michigan

Governors of the Territory of Michigan
No.GovernorTerm in officeAppointed by
1 William Hull.jpg William Hull March 1, 1805

October 29, 1813
Thomas Jefferson
2 Lewis Cass, 14th United States Secretary of War.jpg Lewis Cass October 29, 1813

August 6, 1831
James Madison
3 George B. Porter.png George Bryan Porter August 6, 1831

July 6, 1834 [lower-alpha 1]
Andrew Jackson
Stevens T Mason.png Stevens T. Mason July 6, 1834 [lower-alpha 1]

September 19, 1835
4 John S. Horner.png John S. Horner September 19, 1835

July 3, 1836 [lower-alpha 2]
Andrew Jackson

Governors of the State of Michigan

Michigan was admitted to the Union on January 26, 1837. The original 1835 Constitution of Michigan provided for the election of a governor and a lieutenant governor every 2 years. [12] The fourth and current constitution of 1963 increased this term to four years. [13] There was no term limit on governors until a constitutional amendment effective in 1993 limited governors to two terms. [14]

Constitution of Michigan

The Constitution of the State of Michigan is the governing document of the U.S. state of Michigan. It describes the structure and function of the state's government.

Should the office of governor become vacant, the lieutenant governor becomes governor, followed in order of succession by the Secretary of State and the Attorney General. [15] Prior to the current constitution, the duties of the office would devolve upon the lieutenant governor, without that person actually becoming governor. [16] The term begins at noon on January 1 of the year following the election. [17] Prior to the 1963 constitution, the governor and lieutenant governor were elected through separate votes, allowing them to be from different parties. In 1963, this was changed, so that votes are cast jointly for a governor and lieutenant governor of the same party. [13] [18]

No.GovernorTerm in officePartyElection Lt. Governor [lower-alpha 3]
1 Stevens T Mason.png   Stevens T. Mason November 3, 1835

January 7, 1840
Democratic 1835
[lower-alpha 2]
  Edward Mundy
2 William Woodbridge.jpg William Woodbridge January 7, 1840

February 23, 1841
Whig 1839
[lower-alpha 4]
James Wright Gordon
3 J Wright Gordon.JPG James Wright Gordon February 23, 1841

January 3, 1842
Whig Thomas J. Drake
4 Jsbarry-1-.jpg John S. Barry January 3, 1842

January 5, 1846
Democratic 1841 Origen D. Richardson
5 Alpheus Felch.jpg Alpheus Felch January 5, 1846

March 3, 1847
Democratic 1845
[lower-alpha 5]
William L. Greenly
6 William Greenly.png William L. Greenly March 4, 1847

January 3, 1848
Democratic Charles P. Bush
7 Epaphroditus Ransom 1.jpg Epaphroditus Ransom January 3, 1848

January 7, 1850
Democratic 1847 William M. Fenton
8 Jsbarry-1-.jpg John S. Barry January 7, 1850

January 1, 1852
Democratic 1849
9 Robert McClelland 1.jpg Robert McClelland January 1, 1852

March 7, 1853
Democratic 1851
[lower-alpha 6]
Calvin Britain
[lower-alpha 7]
Andrew Parsons
10 Andrew parsons.jpg Andrew Parsons March 8, 1853

January 3, 1855
Democratic George Griswold
11 Kingsley Bingham.jpg Kinsley S. Bingham January 3, 1855

January 5, 1859
Republican 1854 George Coe
12 Mwisner-1-.jpg Moses Wisner January 5, 1859

January 2, 1861
Republican 1858 Edmund Burke Fairfield
13 Austin Blair cph.3b29566.jpg Austin Blair January 2, 1861

January 3, 1865
Republican 1860 James M. Birney
(resigned April 3, 1861)
Joseph R. Williams
(died June 15, 1861)
Henry T. Backus
1862 Charles S. May
14 Governor-crapo-1-.jpg Henry H. Crapo January 3, 1865

January 6, 1869
Republican 1864 Ebenezer O. Grosvenor
1866 Dwight May
15 Henry P. Baldwin.png Henry P. Baldwin January 6, 1869

January 1, 1873
Republican 1868 Morgan Bates
16 Jjbagley.jpg John J. Bagley January 1, 1873

January 3, 1877
Republican 1872 Henry H. Holt
17 Charles Croswell.jpg Charles Croswell January 3, 1877

January 1, 1881
Republican 1876 Alonzo Sessions
18 David Howell Jerome.jpg David Jerome January 1, 1881

January 1, 1883
Republican 1880 Moreau S. Crosby [lower-alpha 8]
19 Josiah W Begole.jpg Josiah Begole January 1, 1883

January 1, 1885
Democratic 1882
20 Russell Alexander Alger by Percy Ives.jpg Russell A. Alger January 1, 1885

January 1, 1887
Republican 1884 Archibald Buttars
21 Cyrus Luce.jpg Cyrus G. Luce January 1, 1887

January 1, 1891
Republican 1886 James H. MacDonald
1888 William Ball
22 Edwin Winans.jpg Edwin B. Winans January 1, 1891

January 1, 1893
Democratic 1890 John Strong
23 John T Rich.JPG John Treadway Rich January 1, 1893

January 1, 1897
Republican 1892 J. Wight Giddings
1894 Alfred Milnes
(resigned June 1, 1895)
Joseph R. McLaughlin
24 HazenSPingreeDetroitMayor.jpg Hazen S. Pingree January 1, 1897

January 1, 1901
Republican 1896 Thomas B. Dunstan
1898 Orrin W. Robinson
25 Aaron T Bliss.jpg Aaron T. Bliss January 1, 1901

January 1, 1905
Republican 1900
1902 Alexander Maitland
26 FredMWarner.jpg Fred M. Warner January 1, 1905

January 2, 1911
Republican 1904
1906 Patrick H. Kelley
27 Chase S. Osborn.png Chase Osborn January 2, 1911

January 1, 1913
Republican 1910 John Q. Ross [lower-alpha 8]
28 WoodbridgeFerris.jpg Woodbridge Nathan Ferris January 1, 1913

January 1, 1917
Democratic 1912
1914 Luren Dickinson [lower-alpha 8]
29 Albert Edson Sleeper (December 31, 1862 - May 13, 1934) in 1916.jpg Albert Sleeper January 1, 1917

January 1, 1921
Republican 1916
30 AlexJGroesbeck.jpg Alex J. Groesbeck January 1, 1921

January 1, 1927
Republican 1920 Thomas Read
1924 George W. Welsh
31 Fred Warren Green in 1917.jpg Fred W. Green January 1, 1927

January 1, 1931
Republican 1926 Luren Dickinson
32 Wilber Marion Brucker.jpg Wilber M. Brucker January 1, 1931

January 1, 1933
Republican 1930
33 William A. Comstock (Michigan Governor).jpg William Comstock January 1, 1933

January 1, 1935
Democratic 1932 Allen E. Stebbins
34 Frank D. Fitzgerald.jpg Frank Fitzgerald January 1, 1935

January 1, 1937
Republican 1934 Thomas Read
35 Justice Frank Murphy.jpg Frank Murphy January 1, 1937

January 1, 1939
Democratic 1936 Leo J. Nowicki
36 Frank D. Fitzgerald.jpg Frank Fitzgerald January 1, 1939

March 16, 1939
Republican 1938
[lower-alpha 9]
Luren Dickinson
37 Luren D. Dickinson.jpg Luren Dickinson March 16, 1939

January 1, 1941
Republican Matilda Dodge Wilson
38 Murray D. Van Wagoner.jpg Murray Van Wagoner January 1, 1941

January 1, 1943
Democratic 1940 Frank Murphy
39 Harry F. Kelly.jpg Harry Kelly January 1, 1943

January 1, 1947
Republican 1942 Eugene C. Keyes
1944 Vernon J. Brown
40 Kim Sigler (Michigan Governor).jpg Kim Sigler January 1, 1947

January 1, 1949
Republican 1946 Eugene C. Keyes
41 G. Mennen Williams (Michigan Governor).jpg G. Mennen Williams January 1, 1949

January 1, 1961
Democratic 1948 John W. Connolly
1950 William C. Vandenberg [lower-alpha 8]
1952 Clarence A. Reid [lower-alpha 8]
1954 Philip Hart
1958 John Swainson
42 John B. Swainson.jpg John Swainson January 1, 1961

January 1, 1963
Democratic 1960 T. John Lesinski [lower-alpha 10]
43 George W. Romney official portrait.jpg George W. Romney January 1, 1963

January 22, 1969
Republican 1962
[lower-alpha 11] [lower-alpha 12]
William Milliken
44 William G. Milliken 2 (Michigan Governor).jpg William Milliken January 22, 1969

January 1, 1983
Republican Thomas F. Schweigert
1970 James H. Brickley
1974 James Damman
1978 James H. Brickley
45 James Blanchard 1981 congressional photo.jpg James Blanchard January 1, 1983

January 1, 1991
Democratic 1982 Martha Griffiths
46 John Engler (cropped).jpg John Engler January 1, 1991

January 1, 2003
Republican 1990 Connie Binsfeld
1998 Dick Posthumus
47 Jennifer Granholm (cropped).jpg Jennifer Granholm January 1, 2003

January 1, 2011
Democratic 2002 John D. Cherry
48 Rick Snyder in 2013.jpg Rick Snyder January 1, 2011

January 1, 2019
Republican 2010 Brian Calley
49 Gretchen Whitmer Portrait.jpg Gretchen Whitmer January 1, 2019

Democratic 2018
[lower-alpha 13]
Garlin Gilchrist

Other high offices held

Several governors also held other high positions within the state and federal governments. Eight governors served as U.S. House of Representatives members, while seven held positions in the U.S. Senate, all representing Michigan. Others have served as ambassadors, U.S. Cabinet members, and state and federal Supreme Court justices.

* Denotes those offices for which the governor resigned the governorship.
GovernorGubernatorial termOther offices heldSource
Lewis Cass 1813–1831 (territorial) President pro tempore of the Senate, Ambassador to France, U.S. Secretary of War, U.S. Secretary of State, Democratic Party candidate for President of the U.S. (1848) [20]
William Woodbridge 1840–1841 Territorial Delegate; United States Senator (March 4, 1841 – March 4, 1847) [21]
Robert McClelland 1852–1853 U.S. Secretary of the Interior* [22]
Russell A. Alger 1885–1887 U.S. Secretary of War [23]
Wilber M. Brucker 1931–1933 U.S. Secretary of the Army [24]
Frank Murphy 1937–1939 High Commissioner to the Philippines, U.S. Attorney General, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Governor-General of the Philippines [25]
G. Mennen Williams 1949–1961 Ambassador to the Philippines, Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court [26]
George W. Romney 1963–1969 U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development* [27]
James Blanchard 1983–1991 Ambassador to Canada [28]

Living former governors of Michigan

As of April 2019, there are five living former governors of Michigan. The most recent death of a former governor was that of George W. Romney (served 1963–69) on July 26, 1995, 18 days after his 88th birthday. Romney was also the most recently serving governor of Michigan to have died. The state's living former governors are:

GovernorGubernatorial termDate of birth (and age)
William Milliken 1969–1983March 26, 1922 (age 97)
James Blanchard 1983–1991August 8, 1942 (age 76)
John Engler 1991–2003October 12, 1948 (age 70)
Jennifer Granholm 2003–2011February 5, 1959 (age 60)
Rick Snyder 2011–2019August 19, 1958 (age 60)


  1. 1 2 Porter died in office; as territorial secretary, Mason acted as governor until a replacement was appointed. [10]
  2. 1 2 Horner was appointed Secretary and Acting Governor to replace Stevens T. Mason. In October 1835, Michigan authorized a state constitution and elected Mason as governor of the new state, although the state was not admitted until 1837. Horner was mostly ignored by the people of Michigan and resigned to be Secretary of Wisconsin Territory in July 1836. [11]
  3. Lieutenant governors represented the same party as their governor unless noted.
  4. Woodbridge resigned to take an elected seat in the United States Senate; as lieutenant governor, Gordon acted as governor for the remainder of the term.
  5. Felch resigned to take an elected seat in the United States Senate; as lieutenant governor, Greenly acted as governor for the remainder of the term.
  6. After a new state constitution was drafted in 1850, McClelland was elected to a single one-year term in 1851. He was then re-elected to a full two-year term in 1852. [19]
  7. McClelland resigned to be United States Secretary of the Interior; as lieutenant governor, Parsons acted as governor for the remainder of the term.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 Represented the Republican Party.
  9. Fitzgerald died in office; as lieutenant governor, Dickinson acted as governor for the remainder of the term.
  10. Represented the Democratic Party.
  11. This was the first four-year term under the new constitution.
  12. Romney resigned to be United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; as lieutenant governor, Milliken succeeded him.
  13. Whitmer's first term expires January 1, 2023.

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    1. Macomb, Alex (1837). "No. 20: Letter from Major General Macomb, to His Excellency the Governor of Michigan, Accompanying a Copy of Military Tactics". Documents Accompanying the Journal of the Senate. Detroit: John S. Bagg, State Printer. p. 167 via Google Books.
    2. 1963 Michigan Constitution, Article 5, Section 12
    3. 1963 Michigan Constitution, Article 5, Section 8
    4. 1963 Michigan Constitution, Article 5, Section 19
    5. 1963 Michigan Constitution, Article 5, Section 15
    6. 1963 Michigan Constitution, Article 5, Section 14
    7. 1963 Michigan Constitution, Article 5, Section 2
    8. 1 2 "Chronology of Michigan History" (PDF). Michigan Manual 2003–2004. Michigan Legislative Council. pp. 1–5. Retrieved January 1, 2013.
    9. "Laws of Illinois Territory". Western Illinois University. Retrieved January 2, 2013.
    10. Dunbar, Willis F. & May, George S. (1995). Michigan: A History of the Wolverine State (Third Revised ed.). William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. pp. 276–78. ISBN   9780802870551.
    11. Dunbar, Willis F. & May, George S. (1995). Michigan: A History of the Wolverine State (Third Revised ed.). William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. pp. 208–11. ISBN   9780802870551.
    12. 1835 Const. art. V, § 1
    13. 1 2 MI Const. art. V, § 21
    14. MI Const. art. V, § 30
    15. MI Const. art. V, § 26
    16. 1835 Const. art. V, § 13
    17. "Executive Branch". State of Michigan. Retrieved January 3, 2013.
    18. 1835 Const. art. V, § 3
    19. Gardner, Washington (1913). History of Calhoun County, Michigan. Lewis Pub. Co. p. 220.
    20. "Cass, Lewis (1782–1866)". Biographical Dictionary of the United States Congress. Clerk of the United States House of Representatives and Historian of the United States Senate. Retrieved January 1, 2013.
    21. "Woodbridge, William (1780–1861)". Biographical Dictionary of the United States Congress. Clerk of the United States House of Representatives and Historian of the United States Senate. Retrieved January 1, 2013.
    22. "McClelland, Robert (1807–1880)". Biographical Dictionary of the United States Congress. Clerk of the United States House of Representatives and Historian of the United States Senate. Retrieved January 1, 2013.
    23. "Alger, Russell Alexander (1836–1907)". Biographical Dictionary of the United States Congress. Clerk of the United States House of Representatives and Historian of the United States Senate. Retrieved January 1, 2013.
    24. "Michigan Governor Wilbur Marion Brucker". National Governors Association. Retrieved January 1, 2013.
    25. "Michigan Governor Frank Murphy". National Governors Association. Retrieved January 1, 2013.
    26. "Michigan Governor Gerhard Mennen Williams". National Governors Association. Retrieved January 1, 2013.
    27. "Michigan Governor George Wilcken Romney". National Governors Association. Retrieved January 2, 2013.
    28. "Blanchard, James Johnston (1942–)". Biographical Dictionary of the United States Congress. Clerk of the United States House of Representatives and Historian of the United States Senate. Retrieved January 1, 2013.