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Albert Smith Marks

Attorney and Civil War soldier, Tennessee Governor Albert S. Marks was born at Owensboro, Kentucky, on October 16, 1836, the son of Elisha S. Marks. He grew up on his father's farm in Daviess County. After the death of his father, Marks received little formal education but spent as much time as possible reading fiction, history, biography, and the Greek and Roman classics. When he was nineteen, Marks moved to Winchester, Tennessee, to accept a position in the law office of a relative, Arthur S. Colyar. There he read law and was admitted to the bar in 1858. He practiced in the firm of Colyar, Marks and Frizzell until the outbreak of the Civil War.

Marks supported the Southern Democratic ticket of Breckinridge and Lane in the presidential election of 1860. Strongly opposed to secession, he ran as a Union candidate for district delegate to the state convention but was defeated by Peter Turney. When Tennessee voted to withdraw from the Union, though, he enlisted in the Confederate army, was elected captain, and later promoted to colonel of the Seventeenth Tennessee Infantry. At the battle of Stones River on December 31, 1862, Marks was wounded while leading a charge against a Federal battery. As a result, surgeons amputated his right leg, and he endured a long hospital convalescence. When he recovered, Marks was attached to the staff of General Nathan Bedford Forrest as judge advocate and served in that capacity until the end of the war.

Colonel Marks married Novella Davis, daughter of John R. Davis of Wilson County, in April 1863 at the Marshall County home of her uncle, J. M. Knight. After the war, Marks resumed his law practice, first with Colyar until 1866, and then with James B. Fitzpatrick and T. D. Gregory until 1870, when he was elected chancellor of the Fourth Chancery Division.

Marks was selected as the Democratic candidate for governor in 1878 and elected that fall. The most pressing problem of his administration involved the matter of the state debt, over which the state was badly divided. At the Democratic convention in 1880, Marks declined a nomination for a second term. Following his term in office, he returned to his home, the One Hundred Oaks mansion in Winchester, and resumed his law practice. He continued to be active in state and national politics, and in 1888 he was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. He died at Nashville on November 4, 1891.

Suggested Reading

Margaret I. Phillips, The Governors of Tennessee (1978).

Published » December 25, 2009 | Last Updated » January 01, 2010