Governor John Anthony Winston

Written by: Steve Turner

It's hard to pinpoint the high mark in the life of John Anthony Winston. He once was a wealthy planter, later a wealthy merchant, a member of the Alabama House of Representatives (1840-1842), and then a powerful State Sentator for 10 years (1842-1852).

And in 1853 he became the first native born governor of the state. Born in Madison County on September 4, 1812, he was educated at La Grange College and the University of Nashville.

Once he entered politics (1840) he never really left. When he was first nominated for governor he was elected without any organized opposition. Two years later he was reelected by a large majority.

He was so beloved in the state that Hancock County renamed their county Winston in honor of their former governor.

Yet none of the achievements and honors were at his finest hour. It came during the War Between the States.

Governor Winston was nearly 50 years old when the war came. He had lived a full life and had given most of it service.

But he swapped his title of governor for the title of colonel and joined the Eighth Alabama Infantry. He fought for a year in the thick of battle in the Virginia campaigns. In war he bullied his way to victory as he had done in all other endeavors.

At the battle of Seven Pines he led his force to such an advanced position that they were face to face with the enemy at tremendous odds. The enemy called out for him to surrender his regiment.

"I didn't join the army to surrender," he shouted as he took the horse's reins in his teeth, pulled two pistols from his holsters, and started shooting and led his men out of the trap.

He was later elected to the U.S. Senate (1867) but was not allowed to take his seat and was later disfranchised. He had refused to swear allegiance to the Federal Government. But whatever his further achivements were or might have been, Seven Pines was his finest hour.