Richard Dobbs Spaight
Born March 25, 1758, in New Bern, North Carolina he was a spirited patriot and staunch defender of liberty. His father was Secretary to the Crown and died when Richard was eight. And though he was the nephew of the Governor also loyal to the Crown, with all the "pull" inherent from such wealth and connections, he did not sympathize with the Loyalists. Rather he stood up for his fellow citizens and firmly embraced all the ideals that were - the Revolution.
After the passing of both his parents in 1767, he went to Ireland to be raised by relatives and eventually attended the University of Glasgow. There he came in contact with philosophers of the Enlightenment who upheld the idea that citizens and rulers both had divine rights that were unretractable. They were probably highly instrumental in guiding Spaight's political reasoning. He was still in Ireland when he heard the news of the colonies independence and his loyalties rallied even higher when he heard that North Carolinians had participated in the Battle of Brandywine, Sept 11, 1777, which was a decisive victory for the British.
He returned in 1778 to NC, dodging British blockades, and offered his services to Governor Caswell in the militia. He remained in militia service even while fulfilling his other duties as statesman, eventually attaining the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
When 30, he married Mary Leach, who was distinguished as being the first lady to dance with Washington at a ball given in his honor at New Bern. They had 3 children. His son Richard Dobbs Spaight, Jr seemed to follow somewhat in his father's footsteps.
One of the youngest signers of the U.S. Constitution and delegate from NC from
1782 - 1785. A true libertarian, in the small "L" sense of the word, he was all about balance of powers. Though he knew a strong central government was necessary to preserve the union that won the liberties they now enjoyed as the united colonies, it must on the other hand be limited. He also knew that the individual needed protection from the abuse of powers of government (advocating a bill of rights) and the states responsibilities needed to be defined and limited, as well.
After serving at this post in aiding the development of our Constitution, he served in the State House of Commons after his contributing to the writing of our founding law of the land. Subsequently he served in the NC House of Representatives in 1798. Because of his political philosophy he eventually became closely associated with Thomas Jefferson.
First native-born Governor of North Carolina and sometimes called the "Father of North Carolina". While in office sites were appropriated for Raleigh as the new capital - where he had the honor of first convening the General Assembly - and the UNC was newly chartered. He was also a member of the Episcopalian church.
Though he lost bids to political office, participated in several unsuccessful battles attempting to push back the relentless invasion of the British armies and retired several times due to poor health, it became apparent that he never gave up! He was relentless in return, as a soldier and statesmen, until the "Independence" that he so admired from afar in Ireland, became his and that of and his fellow citizens - up close and personal and for keeps.
Sadly, at 44 years old, he died as the result of a duel on September 6, 1802. This tragic event was the impetus that caused dueling to be outlawed in NC.
Spaight Street in Madison, WI is named in his honor.