Dewitt Senter, farmer, state legislator, and governor, was born in McMinn County on March 26, 1832, the son of William T. Senter, a Methodist minister, and Nancy White Senter. He attended the public schools in Grainger County and the Strawberry Plains College. Beginning in 1852, he read law at home. He married Harriet T. Senter in 1859.
From 1855 to 1861 Senter represented Grainger County in the Tennessee General Assembly. Although a member of the Whig Party before the Civil War, he later served as an elector for the Republican ticket in 1864 and 1868. In addition to his interest in farming and public service, Senter served as president of the Cincinnati, Cumberland Gap and Charleston Railroad in 1865-66.
In the 1866-67 legislative session, Senter was elected Speaker of the Senate. Following the election of Governor William G. Brownlow to the U.S. Senate in October 1867, Senter served out the Brownlow term as governor. In 1869 Senter defeated William B. Stokes in a hotly contested campaign for the governorship. As governor, he allied himself with former Confederates and conservatives to reverse many key Reconstruction programs. In 1870 he supported the call for the state constitutional convention which drafted a new constitution that restored formerly disfranchised Confederates–and the Democratic Party–to power.
Senter retired to a large farm near Morristown, where he died on June 14, 1898.