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Taylor, Alfred Alexander



  • Existence: 1848-1931


Alfred Alexander Taylor was born August 6, 1848 in Happy Valley, Carter County, Tennessee. His parents were Nathaniel Greene Taylor and Emeline (Haynes) Taylor, and he was brother of James Patton, Robert Love, Hugh Lawson, Nathaniel G., Rhoda Emma and Mary Eva.

The Taylor's came from a distinguished family and political background. His paternal great-grandfather, Brig. Gen. Nathaniel Taylor, served in the Tennessee legislature and fought under Andrew Jackson during the Creek Indian wars. Alfred's father, Nathaniel G., was a farmer, Methodist minister and staunch Unionist, who served in the state legislature and in the United States Congress. Alfred Taylor's ancestors on his mother's side were among the founders of the Watauga settlement in 1769, and were leaders in the establishment of the Watauga Association and in the government of the State of Franklin. Alfred Taylor's uncle, Landon Carter Haynes, was an attorney and renowned orator, who became a Confederate senator from Tennessee during the Civil War.

Alfred Taylor was educated at Duffield Academy in Elizabethton, Tennessee, Pennington Seminary in Pennington, New Jersey, and at Buffalo Institute in Tennessee, later known as Milligan College. He was admitted to the Tennessee bar in 1870 and served in the legislature from 1875-1877. Among his accomplishments was securing passage of a bill forming present-day Unicoi County. He married Jennie Anderson of Carter County on June 22, 1881. They had ten children: John, Benjamin H., Nathaniel G., David H., J. Blaine, Alfred Alexander, Jr., Robert Love, Frank, Mary, and Catherine.

Taylor ran for Congress in 1878 but lost in the Republican primary to Augustus Pettibone. In 1886, the Republicans nominated Alfred Taylor for governor, and the Democrats countered by nominating Robert Love Taylor. This led to the campaign known as the "War of the Roses." The brothers campaigned and debated each other throughout the state-- "Our Alf" wearing a red rose and "Our Bob" wearing a white rose. The campaign was short on issues but long on entertainment as the brothers attracted nationwide attention with their ability as entertainers; both were masters of the "fiddle" as well as satire and rural humor. Robert Taylor won the first of his two terms as governor, defeating his brother by a vote of 126,628 to 109,837.

Alfred resumed his law practice and served three terms in Congress from 1889-1895. During the 1890s he joined Robert Taylor on a nationwide lyceum lecture tour. Later, Alfred Taylor divided his time between his law practice and lecture engagements.

In 1920, the Republicans again nominated Taylor for governor. The 72-year-old Taylor faced incumbent Democrat Albert H. Roberts. Large crowds came to hear "Uncle Alf," who was often joined on the platform by his prized foxhound, "Old Limber," and a quartet composed of three sons and a friend who sang mountain ballads and religious songs. Taylor defeated Roberts by a vote of 229,143 to 185,890.

"Uncle Alf's" tenure as governor, however, was frustrating. The Democrat-controlled legislature and factionalism within the Republican Party effectively thwarted Taylor's ability to implement his legislative program. The Democrats capitalized on his vulnerability in 1922 when Austin Peay defeated Taylor by nearly 39,000 votes.

After the election, Taylor returned to his home in Johnson City and retired from public life. He died on November 25, 1931 and was buried in Monte Vista Cemetery. In 1938 the remains of Robert Love Taylor were moved from Knoxville and interred in a grave beside his brother. Jennie Anderson Taylor died in February 1943.

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

Alfred Alexander Taylor Family Papers

Identifier: AppMs-0404
Scope and Contents

The Alfred Alexander Taylor Family papers contain advertisements, correspondence, copies of campaign memorabilia, family photographs, newsclippings, speeches, and published tributes reflecting Taylor's political career and family life. Most of the papers were created through coverage of Taylor's political responsibilities. Some material concerning his wife, Jennie, and son, Benjamin H. Taylor, are included in the collection.

Dates: 1815-1950; Majority of material found within 1886-1950

Benjamin Harrison Taylor Family Papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: AppMs-0113

The papers span from 1833 to 1977. The files are arranged alphabetically by type of documents within a single series.

Dates: 1867-1977; 1868-1930

Additional filters:

Correspondence 1
Governors -- Tennessee 1
Labor disputes 1
Photographs 1
Religion 1