Clement Comer Clay (December 17, 1789 – September 6, 1866)[1] was the eighth Governor of the U.S. state of Alabama from 1835 to 1837. An attorney, judge, and politician, he was elected to the state legislature as well as the U.S. House of Representatives and the United States Senate.

Clement Comer Clay
United States Senator
from Alabama
In office
June 19, 1837 – November 15, 1841
Preceded byJohn McKinley
Succeeded byArthur P. Bagby
8th Governor of Alabama
In office
November 21, 1835 – July 17, 1837
Preceded byJohn Gayle
Succeeded byHugh McVay
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Alabama's 1st district
In office
March 4, 1829 – March 3, 1835
Preceded byGabriel Moore
Succeeded byReuben Chapman
Member of the Alabama House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
Born(1789-12-17)December 17, 1789
Halifax County, Virginia, US
DiedSeptember 6, 1866(1866-09-06) (aged 76)
Huntsville, Alabama, US
Resting placeMaple Hill Cemetery
Political partyDemocratic
SpouseSusanna Claiborne Withers (1798–1866; her death)
Alma materEast Tennessee University
ProfessionPolitician, Governor of Alabama

He and his son, who also served as a U.S. senator, were among the Alabama’s most prominent enslavers, according to the Washington Post. Together the two men enslaved 87 people on four Alabama plantations as recorded in the 1860 census.[2]

Early years


Clay was born in Halifax County, Virginia, the son of Rebecca (Comer) and William Clay,[3] an officer in the American Revolutionary War, who moved to Grainger County, Tennessee. Clay attended the local schools and graduated from East Tennessee College in 1807. He was admitted to the bar in 1809 and moved to Huntsville, Alabama, where he began a law practice in 1811.[4]

Marriage and family


Clay married Susannah Claiborne Withers on April 4, 1815.[5] They had three sons: Clement Claiborne Clay, John Withers Clay, and Hugh Lawson Clay.

Alabama House of Representatives


Clay served in the Alabama Territorial Legislature from 1817 to 1818. He was a state court judge and served in the Alabama House of Representatives.

In 1828, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, serving from March 4, 1829, and through re-elections until March 3, 1835, when he started as governor of Alabama.[6]

Governor of Alabama


In 1835 Clay was elected governor. Clay's term as governor ended early when the state legislature appointed him to the United States Senate in 1837 (this was before the popular election of senators).[4]

Spring Hill College


In 1836, Governor Clay signed a legislative act that chartered Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, the third oldest Jesuit college in the United States. The charter gave it "full power to grant or confer such degree or degrees in the arts and sciences, or in any art or science as are usually granted or conferred by other seminaries of learning in the United States." The college resulted from the strong French Catholic traditions in the city, founded as a French colony.

Creek War of 1836


Clay's term in office was dominated by the Creek War of 1836 arising from resistance to Indian Removal, which had taken place in the Southeast since 1830. During Clay's administration, the United States Army removed the Creek Indians from Southeastern Alabama under the terms of the 1832 Treaty of Cusseta. The Creek were relocated to the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) west of the Mississippi. Confrontations between Indians and white settlers occurred.[7]

Panic of 1837


During the Panic of 1837, the United States suffered a financial crisis brought on by speculative fever. This crisis caused a run on the Bank of the State of Alabama. Clay ordered the bank to provide a detailed financial report, but it could not do so.[7][4]

Slave holder


Clay arrived in 1811 to Huntsville owning very little money and one slave.[8] By 1830 he enslaved 52 people and in 1834, 71. From 1840 – 1850, he sold many of those people in order to meet his debts. But by 1860 he claimed ownership of 84 enslaved people.[4]

United States Senate

Clay's grave at Maple Hill Cemetery

After the election by the state legislature, Clay served in the United States Senate from June 19, 1837, until his resignation on November 15, 1841.

In the year after the end of the Civil War, Clement died of natural causes in September 1866, aged 76. His wife Susanna had died earlier the same year. They were buried at Maple Hill Cemetery in Huntsville.


  1. ^ National Governors Association
  2. ^ Weil, Julie Zauzmer (October 22, 2022). "A slaveholding senator, an 1879 wedding and a Black family's mystery". Washington Post. Retrieved April 27, 2024.
  3. ^ Nuermberger, Ruth Ketring (July 15, 2014). The Clays of Alabama: A Planter-Lawyer-Politician Family. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 9780813164090.
  4. ^ a b c d Thornton, J. Mills. "Clement Comer Clay". Encyclopedia of Alabama. Retrieved April 27, 2024.
  5. ^ Alabama Marriage Collection, 1800-1969 Record
  6. ^ The Historical Atlas of Political Parties in the United States Congress, pp. 89-92
  7. ^ a b "Clement Comer Clay". Alabama Department of Archives and History. Retrieved June 23, 2012.
  8. ^ Reeves, Jacquelyn Procter (January 1, 2007). "Clement Comer Clay". Huntsville Historical Review. 32 (1): 30–32. Retrieved April 27, 2024.


Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for Governor of Alabama
Succeeded by
Legal offices
New title Chief Justice of the
Supreme Court of Alabama

Succeeded by
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Alabama's 1st congressional district

March 4, 1829 – March 4, 1835
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Governor of Alabama
Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by United States Senator
from Alabama
(Class 3)

with William R. King (1837–1841)
Succeeded by