Group hunts for missing faces of past N.C. governors

Associated PressMarch 23, 2013 

— North Carolina’s banking industry trade association is on a hunt for missing history. The group is searching for the portraits of four former governors to complete the look at chief executives dating back to 1776.

The collection has been done before, but North Carolina Bankers Association President Thad Woodard said a framed poster in the group’s offices ended with Gov. Luther Hodges more than half a century ago. It’s not clear who designed the poster or why, but the group decided it was due for an update.

A new collection of the state leaders taken from photographs and painted portraiture will be printed at the trade group’s expense, Woodard said, and more than 4,000 copies will be distributed to schools beginning next fall.

For the past seven months, the association has had a staffer searching part time for the missing likenesses of the four men who helped run the state in its early years before photography was invented. They include a former attorney for the British Royal government who turned against the empire, two members of the U.S. House and a U.S. senator, according to biographies prepared by the State Library of North Carolina.

So far, the likenesses of the four governors haven’t turned up, though clues surfaced this week that one of their portraits might yet be uncovered.

The missing likenesses are those of governors Samuel Ashe, who served from 1795-1798; Nathaniel Alexander, 1805-1807; Gabriel Holmes, 1821-1824; and Jesse Franklin, 1820-1821.

Ashe was born into a wealthy family in 1725 near Bath, but became a prominent Patriot leader decades later. He helped draft the state’s original constitution at Halifax in 1776 and became governor at age 70. Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Wilson Library said their records show that an Ashe portrait should be in their collection but were unable to confirm its existence last week.

Alexander served as a surgeon in the American Revolution and lived on the site of what is now Charlotte Motor Speedway. He served in the U.S. House from 1803 to 1805 on the side of the newly established Republicans headed by President Thomas Jefferson. He resigned his seat to become governor in 1805.

Holmes was defeated by Franklin in the 1820 election for governor. But governors were elected annually, and he beat Franklin in a rematch the following year. Holmes served the then-maximum of three terms, emphasizing the use of limited public funds for education, improved land and water transportation, and help for agriculture. After hitting his term limit, Holmes served in the U.S. House from 1825 until his death four years later.

Franklin served just one year as governor and refused to allow his portrait to be painted. He considered himself a representative of plain people. He fought during the Revolution in the crucial Carolina battles of Kings Mountain and Guilford Courthouse.

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