Israel Pickens was one amongst the stream of North Carolinians who migrated to the newly opened Alabama and Mississippi territories in the 1810s and 1820s. With experience as a legislator and congressman in his native state, Pickens quickly rose to political prominence in Alabama, serving as the state’s governor from 1821 to 1825.
Original Date Cast:
Born in what was then Mecklenburg (present-day Cabarrus) County, Israel was the son of Samuel and Jane Pickens. Educated at a classical school operated at nearby Poplar Tent Church, young Pickens went on to study law at Jefferson College in Pennsylvania. In 1802 he began practice in Morganton. From Burke County he was elected to the state House for two terms in 1808 and 1809. From 1811 to 1817 he served in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he met Sampson County native William Rufus King. Like Pickens W. R. King would soon move to Alabama and hold political office. (A third Tar Heel, Gabriel Moore, left Surry County for Mississippi in 1810, moved to Alabama and served as that state’s chief executive from 1821 to 1831.)
Pickens was Alabama’s third governor. During his tenure he completed the organization of state government initiated by his predecessors. The state’s first governor, William Bibb (1819-1820), died in office to be succeeded by his brother Thomas Bibb (1820-1821). It was during Pickens’s consecutive two-year terms that the state bank was organized and Lafayette visited. In February 1826, a few months after leaving the governor’s seat, Pickens was appointed to the U.S. Senate, where he served until November. He declined an appointment to a U.S. district judgeship owing to poor health. Soon thereafter he moved to Cuba in hopes that the climate would prove beneficial but died and was buried there in 1827. The Alabama legislature subsequently had his body exhumed and the remains returned to the state for reinterment.
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, V, 95-96 –sketch by Roy Parker and William S. Powell
Biographical Directory of Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, I, 6-7
Adelaide and Eugenia Lore, Open the Gate and Roam Cabarrus With Us (1971)
"Cabarrus County, North Carolina, Historic Sites Map" (1981)
Thomas Hickerson, Echoes of Happy Valley (1962)
The Land We Love (June 1866), 91