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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — When it comes to elections, many of us may take our vote for granted. But, that right to vote for all offices hasn’t always been there. In the early years of North Carolina politics, the governor was actually elected by the general assembly. That all changed in 1835.

A growing schism between the eastern and western counties of the state had come to a boiling point. After adjoining for a constitutional convention, lawmakers decided to make the vote for governor come to the people. Edward Dudley of Wilmington would be the beneficiary.

Dudley rose to prominence in state politics after rallying for a return to a two-party system after what he called a "Rip Van Winkle" slumber in North Carolina. He championed the Whig Party — which stood for change. His party won in 1835, and would hold the governship until 1850.

Dudley’s administration brought about great progress for the state — particularly when it came to schools, and the construction of railroads. Many railroads were completed across the state, including the 160 mile long Wilmington and Weldon railroad in 1840.

It is said to have been the longest railroad at its time of completion, and was a crucial part to the Confederate war efforts in the Civil War that would soon arise.

After his time in office, Dudley returned to Wilmington to be president of that railroad. He passed away in 1855, and is buried at Oakdale Cemetery.


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