David Campbell (Virginia politician)

David Campbell (August 7, 1779  March 19, 1859) was a Virginia merchant, soldier, farmer and politician who became the 27th Governor of Virginia, serving from 1837 to 1840.

David Campbell
27th Governor of Virginia
In office
March 31, 1837  March 31, 1840
Preceded byWyndham Robertson (acting)
Succeeded byThomas Walker Gilmer
Virginia State Senator
In office
Preceded byFrancis Preston
Succeeded byJohn D. Sharp
Personal details
Born(1779-08-07)August 7, 1779
Washington County (later Smyth County), Virginia
DiedMarch 19, 1859(1859-03-19) (aged 79)
"Montcalm," Abingdon, Virginia
Resting placeSinking Spring Cemetery
36°42′33″N 81°58′58″W
Political partyDemocratic
SpouseMaria Hamilton Campbell

Early and family life

David Campbell was born in a part of Washington County, Virginia, that later became Smyth County, to Capt. John Campbell (1742-1825) and his wife Elizabeth McDonald (1753-1827). Both of his parents were of Scottish descent.[1] His younger brother John Campbell (1787 or 1788 by 29 January 1867) served as treasurer of the United States from 1829 to 1839, and would be buried at Morristown, Shelby County, Indiana. Another younger brother, Edward McDonald Campbell (17811833), represented Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Washington Counties in the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 18291830, and Edward's son John Arthur Campbell represented the area at the Virginia Secession Convention of 1861 and also served as a Confederate infantry captain and circuit judge.[2] They may have also had two sisters, Mary Campbell Cummings (1773-1829) and Eliza Campbell (1783-1876).

David Campbell married Mary Hamilton (1783-1859) in 1800, and they raised his nephew and niece David H.R. Campbell and Virginia Campbell.


Campbell was a successful merchant in Abingdon, Virginia. He served in the U.S. Army during the War of 1812, and was Captain in the Virginia militia and aide-de-Camp to Governor James Barbour during that conflict. He was National Guard Brigadier General of the 3rd Virginia brigade and Colonel of the 3rd Virginia Cavalry.

Campbell also served as deputy clerk of Washington County from 1802-1812. He later won election as Clerk of Washington County (one of three elective countywide offices) and served until 1837.

After the 1820 census, voters in Washington and surrounding Lee, Scott, Russell and Tazewell counties elected him to represent them (part-time) in the Virginia Senate, where he succeeded Francis Preston (who also represented several other growing counties). Senator Campbell served one term (until 1824), and was replaced by John D. Sharp.[3]

As governor Campbell unsuccessfully advocated creation of a statewide system of compulsory education. He called a special session of the General Assembly that helped Virginia weather the financial Panic of 1837. After his term as Virginia's governor ended, he served as justice of the peace in Washington County. Two men of the same name owned slaves in Washington County in 1840, and although Virginia's state slave schedules for that county in 1850 also show a David Campbell as a slaveowner, such records are not available online and the federal census slave schedule was either lost or missing.[4]

Death and legacy

Campbell died in Abingdon on March 19, 1859, survived by his widow for six months. Both are buried in Abingdon's Sinking Spring cemetery. The Library of Virginia maintains his executive papers.[5]


  1. George Fraser Black, Scotland's mark on America, page 54
  2. Lewis Preston Summers, History of Southwest Virginia (Richmond, 1903) (republished by Regional Publishing Company in Baltimore 1971) p. 771
  3. Cynthia Miller Leonard, Virginia's General Assembly 1619-1978 (Richmond: Virginia State Library 1978) pp. 306, 311,, 316, 321
  4. 1850 U.S. Federal census for Washington County District 67;
  5. A Guide to the Executive Papers of Governor David Campbell, 1837-1840
  • John T. Kneebone et al., eds., Dictionary of Virginia Biography (Richmond: The Library of Virginia, 1998 ), 2:560563. ISBN 0-88490-199-8.
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