Thomas Reynolds (governor)

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Thomas Reynolds
Thomas Reynolds as he appeared while Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court.
7th Governor of Missouri
In office
November 16, 1840 February 9, 1844
Lieutenant Meredith M. Marmaduke
Preceded by Lilburn Boggs
Succeeded byMeredith M. Marmaduke
Member of the Illinois House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
Born(1796-03-12)March 12, 1796
Bracken County, Kentucky
DiedFebruary 9, 1844(1844-02-09) (aged 47)
Jefferson City, Missouri
Resting placeWoodlawn Cemetery, Jefferson City Missouri
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s)Eliza Ann Young
ChildrenOne son; Ambrose Dudley Reynolds (b. 1824)
Profession Attorney

Thomas Reynolds (March 12, 1796 – February 9, 1844) was the Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court as well as the seventh Governor of Missouri. A Democrat, he is notable for being one of the few American politicians to die by suicide while in office.

Missouri U.S. state in the United States

Missouri is a state in the Midwestern United States. With over six million residents, it is the 18th-most populous state of the Union. The largest urban areas are St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield and Columbia; the capital is Jefferson City. The state is the 21st-most extensive in area. Missouri is bordered by eight states : Iowa to the north, Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee to the east, Arkansas to the south and Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska to the west. In the South are the Ozarks, a forested highland, providing timber, minerals and recreation. The Missouri River, after which the state is named, flows through the center of the state into the Mississippi River, which makes up Missouri's eastern border.

Democratic Party (United States) Major political party in the United States

The Democratic Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with its rival, the Republican Party. Tracing its heritage back to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison's Democratic-Republican Party, the modern-day Democratic Party was founded around 1828 by supporters of Andrew Jackson, making it the world's oldest active political party.


Early life

Thomas Reynolds was born in Bracken County, Kentucky to Nathaniel and Catherine (nee Vernon) Reynolds. He received his basic education and education in Law while in Kentucky and was admitted to the state Bar in 1817. [1]

Bracken County, Kentucky U.S. county in Kentucky

Bracken County is a county located in the U.S. state of Kentucky. As of the 2010 census, the population was 8,488. Its county seat is Brooksville. The county was formed in 1796. Bracken County is included in the Cincinnati-Middletown, OH-KY-IN Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Kentucky American state

Kentucky, officially the Commonwealth of Kentucky, is a state located in the east south-central region of the United States. Although styled as the "State of Kentucky" in the law creating it,, Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth. Originally a part of Virginia, in 1792 Kentucky split from it and became the 15th state to join the Union. Kentucky is the 37th most extensive and the 26th most populous of the 50 United States.

Reynolds moved with his family to Illinois in his early twenties, settling in the Springfield area. Despite the same last name, and similar political career paths in Illinois, contrary to other sources John Reynolds is not the brother of Thomas Reynolds. [2] Reynolds married Eliza Ann Young on September 20, 1823 and the couple would have one child, a son, Ambrose Dudley Reynolds, born in 1824. [3] [4]

Illinois American State

Illinois is a state in the Midwestern and Great Lakes regions of the United States. It has the fifth largest gross domestic product (GDP), the sixth largest population, and the 25th largest land area of all U.S. states. Illinois has been noted as a microcosm of the entire United States. With Chicago in northeastern Illinois, small industrial cities and immense agricultural productivity in the north and center of the state, and natural resources such as coal, timber, and petroleum in the south, Illinois has a diverse economic base, and is a major transportation hub. Chicagoland, Chicago's metropolitan area, encompasses over 65% of the state's population. The Port of Chicago connects the state to international ports via two main routes: from the Great Lakes, via the Saint Lawrence Seaway, to the Atlantic Ocean and from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River, via the Illinois Waterway to the Illinois River. The Mississippi River, the Ohio River, and the Wabash River form parts of the boundaries of Illinois. For decades, Chicago's O'Hare International Airport has been ranked as one of the world's busiest airports. Illinois has long had a reputation as a bellwether both in social and cultural terms and, through the 1980s, in politics.

Springfield, Illinois State capital and city in Illinois, United States

Springfield is the capital of the U.S. state of Illinois and the county seat of Sangamon County. The city's population was 116,250 at the 2010 U.S. Census, which makes it the state's sixth most-populous city, the second largest outside of the Chicago metropolitan area, and the largest in central Illinois. As of 2018, the city's population was estimated to have decreased to 114,694, with just over 211,700 residents living in the Springfield Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes Sangamon County and the adjacent Menard County.

John Reynolds (U.S. politician) American politician

John Reynolds was a United States lawyer and politician from the state of Illinois who served in all three governmental branches. One of the original four justices of the Illinois Supreme Court (1818–1825), he later won election several times to the Illinois House of Representatives and to United States House of Representatives, as well as served as the 4th Illinois Governor (1830–1834). He also took the rank of major general of the Illinois militia during the Black Hawk War.


Reynolds served as Clerk for the Illinois House of Representatives from 1818 until his appointment to the Illinois Supreme Court on August 31, 1822. He remained on the high court until January 19, 1825, and served as the court's chief justice during his entire tenure. [1] He served one term in the Illinois House of Representatives from 1826 to 1828. Failing to be reelected, Reynolds and his family moved to Missouri, settling in the Howard County town of Fayette. [2] Thomas Reynolds established a legal practice in Fayette, and for a time also served as editor of the Boonslick Democrat newspaper. [4] Elected to represent Howard County in the Missouri Legislature in 1832, he was quickly named Speaker of the House. In January 1837 Missouri governor Lilburn Boggs nominated Reynolds to be the circuit judge for the 2nd judicial district, a position he held until being elected Missouri's seventh governor in 1840. [3]

Illinois House of Representatives Lower house of the Illinois General Assembly

The Illinois House of Representatives is the lower house of the Illinois General Assembly, the bicameral legislature of the U.S. state of Illinois. The body was created by the first Illinois Constitution adopted in 1818. The House consists of 118 representatives elected from individual legislative districts for two-year terms with no limits; redistricted every 10 years, based on the 2010 U.S. census each representative represents approximately 108,734 people.

Howard County, Missouri U.S. county in Missouri

Howard County is a county in the U.S. state of Missouri, with its southern border formed by the Missouri River. As of the 2010 census, the population was 10,144. Its county seat is Fayette. The county was organized January 23, 1816, and named for Benjamin Howard, the first Governor of the Missouri Territory. Settled originally by migrants from the Upper South, it is part of the region historically known as Little Dixie. It is part of the Columbia, Missouri, metropolitan area.

Fayette, Missouri City in Missouri, United States

Fayette is a city in Howard County, Missouri, United States. The population was 2,688 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Howard County. It is part of the Columbia, Missouri Metropolitan Statistical Area.

As Governor

After soundly defeating John B. Clark in the 1840 gubernatorial election, Thomas Reynolds presided over a time of great expansion and growth in Missouri. The Oregon Trail, with its kick-off point in western Missouri, was booming and the economy was beginning to recover in the state and nation from the Panic of 1837. A Jacksonian Democrat and follower of Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton, Reynolds generally adhered to their limited-government, hard currency viewpoints. [4] Regarding the issue of slavery Reynolds believed in each state's right to decide the issue for itself and that abolitionists or others helping slaves escape should face life imprisonment. [3] Under his leadership fifteen new counties were formed in Missouri. One issue that Reynolds championed perhaps the hardest was for the elimination of debtor's prisons, which the Missouri General Assembly did in February 1843. [4] While he was governor Reynolds worked to improve voting requirements and access. A milestone in education occurred when the first class was enrolled at the University of Missouri. [1]

Oregon Trail Historic route to and through the American Old West

The Oregon Trail is a 2,170-mile (3,490 km) historic East–West, large-wheeled wagon route and emigrant trail in the United States that connected the Missouri River to valleys in Oregon. The eastern part of the Oregon Trail spanned part of the future state of Kansas, and nearly all of what are now the states of Nebraska and Wyoming. The western half of the trail spanned most of the future states of Idaho and Oregon.

Panic of 1837 American financial crisis

The Panic of 1837 was a financial crisis in the United States that touched off a major recession that lasted until the mid-1840s. Profits, prices, and wages went down while unemployment went up. Pessimism abounded during the time. The panic had both domestic and foreign origins. Speculative lending practices in western states, a sharp decline in cotton prices, a collapsing land bubble, international specie flows, and restrictive lending policies in Great Britain were all to blame. On May 10, 1837, banks in New York City suspended specie payments, meaning that they would no longer redeem commercial paper in specie at full face value. Despite a brief recovery in 1838, the recession persisted for approximately seven years. Banks collapsed, businesses failed, prices declined, and thousands of workers lost their jobs. Unemployment may have been as high as 25% in some locales. The years 1837 to 1844 were, generally speaking, years of deflation in wages and prices.

Jacksonian democracy was a 19th-century political philosophy in the United States that expanded suffrage to most white men over the age of 21, and restructured a number of federal institutions. Originating with the seventh U.S. president, Andrew Jackson, and his supporters, it became the nation's dominant political worldview for a generation. The term itself was in active use by the 1830s.


Despite all his success Thomas Reynolds was not a well man, either physically or mentally. For several months prior to his death Reynolds was reported in ill health and suffering from melancholia. [2] [4] Political opponents in Missouri's Whig party, and certain newspapers under their influence, were particularly harsh in their criticism of Reynolds, his actions and positions as governor. [4] During breakfast on the morning of February 9, 1844 Reynolds asked a blessing, which was not usual for him. Following the meal he locked himself in his Executive Mansion office and drew the shutters closed. Some time later a passer-by heard a shot and upon investigation Reynolds was found dead at his desk with an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. [5] On the governors writing table was a sealed message addressed to his friend, Colonel William G. Minor in which he said "I have labored and discharged my duties faithfully to the public, but this has not protected me from the slanders and abuse which has rendered my life a burden to me…I pray to God to forgive them and teach them more charity." [5]

Melancholia mood disorder of non-specific depression

Melancholia is a concept from ancient or pre-modern medicine. Melancholy was one of the four temperaments matching the four humours. In the 19th century, "melancholia" could be physical as well as mental, and melancholic conditions were classified as such by their common cause rather than by their properties. It is the predecessor of the mental health diagnosis of clinical depression and still exists as a subtype for major depression known as melancholic depression.

To lose any leader while they are in office is a shock, doubly so when death comes by their own hand. A large crowd of mourners attended Governor Reynolds's funeral and burial at Woodlawn Cemetery in Jefferson City, Missouri. Two years later a large granite shaft was erected at his gravesite. Reynolds County, Missouri was also named in his honor. [2] His greatest legacy however was the public attention paid to the issue of mental illness. Reynolds successor, Governor Meredith M. Marmaduke, urged the creation of a system and building for the care of the mentally ill in his 1844 message to the legislature. This helped lead to the opening of Fulton State Hospital in Fulton, Missouri in 1851. [3]

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  1. 1 2 3 "Missouri Governor Thomas Reynolds". National Governors Association website. 2011. Retrieved July 22, 2012.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "The Thomas Reynolds Confusion" (PDF). Illinois State Historical Society via Northern Illinois University online library. Winter 1961. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 7, 2010. Retrieved July 22, 2012.
  3. 1 2 3 4 "Reynolds Historical and Biographical notes" (PDF). Missouri Secretary of State website. July 28, 2008. Retrieved July 22, 2012.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Christensen, Lawrence O., Dictionary of Missouri Biography, University of Missouri Press, 1999, pp. 646–647
  5. 1 2 "Governors suicide calls attention to mental illness". Missouri Department of Mental Health website. 2011. Archived from the original on December 16, 2013. Retrieved July 22, 2012.
Preceded by
John Thornon
Speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives
Succeeded by
John Jameison
Political offices
Preceded by
Lilburn Boggs
Governor of Missouri
Succeeded by
Meredith Miles Marmaduke