"Parson" W. G. Brownlow
1805 ~ 1877
William Gannaway Brownlow was one of the more colorful political leaders during the Civil War. He was an active voice in East Tennessee during the War and went on to become Governor of Tennessee during the post-War Reconstruction period, 1865-1869. Brownlow was then elected a U. S. Senator from 1869-1875.
The following information is taken from a University of Tennessee Website:
A Virginia farm boy with little formal education, William G. Brownlow became one of America's most picturesque editors. A tall, robust, intense man, he was a carpenter and an itinerant Methodist preacher before getting into politics by opposing nullification by South Carolina. Brownlow became an editor in 1839 when he established a Whig newspaper in Elizabethton. Brownlow soon moved to Jonesboro and later to Knoxville, where he began Brownlow's Knoxville Whig in 1849.
"Parson" Brownlow's writing, like his preaching, was brilliant, often coarse and vituperative. His newspaper was like no other. Brownlow practiced his mottos "Cry Aloud and Spare Not" with relish; and his Whig, with 12,000 circulation in the 1850's, was the largest weekly in the South.
Pro-slavery but violently against secession, Brownlow used his Whig to lead the East Tennessee "Rebellion" against the Confederacy in 1861. Brownlow stirred up so much trouble that he was arrested and jailed. Fearful of making him a martyr, Confederate authorities escorted Brownlow out of the area and turned him loose. He went on to the North and became widely known through his speeches attacking the Confederacy.
In 1863, Brownlow returned to Knoxville and revived his paper. Brownlow was elected governor in 1865, re-elected in 1867, and then elected to the United States Senate in 1869 despite ill-health. Brownlow sold his paper before going to Washington, but he purchased half-interest in the Knoxville Daily and Weekly Chronicle upon his return. Brownlow wrote fiery editorials for that newspaper until his death in 1877.
The Tennessee Newspaper Project is concerned about the decay of numerous issues of Brownlow's papers.
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All HTML code and the background graphic used on this page was created by and copyrighted 1999-2003 to Billie R. McNamara. All rights reserved. The newspaper graphic was borrowed from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Special Collection's Library's Website. The graphics of Brownlow were taken from scans of orginal photos.
This page was last updated Monday, August 16, 1999.