William Wyatt Bibb was born in Amelia County, Virginia on October 2, 1781. His family later moved to Georgia. After primary school, William attended the College of William and Mary and then studied medicine at the University of Pennsylvania where he was awarded his M.D. degree in 1801. Following graduation, William established a medical practice in Petersburg, Elbert County, Georgia. In 1803, Dr. Bibb married Mary Freeman.
William Bibb’s political career began when he was elected to Georgia’s House of Representative where he served from 1803 to 1805. When Thomas Spalding resigned his congressional seat in the Ninth US Congress, Bibb was elected to replace him. A member of the Democratic-Republican Party, he was reelected four times and served until November 6, 1813. Bibb then moved from the House to the US Senate to fill the Georgia vacancy created by the resignation of William H. Crawford. Here he served until November 9, 1816.
When the Alabama Territory was formed in 1817, President James Monroe appointed Bibb as the territorial governor. On December 14, 1819, Alabama became a state. Bibb now ran against Marmaduke Williams to be governor and won the election, receiving 8,342 votes to Williams’ 7,140. During the election, the major bone of contention was the “Georgia Faction.” Those who supported Williams felt Bibb used autocratic powers in an effort to name Cahawba as the state’s capital. They also felt Bibb did not represent the interests of the common people of Alabama.
Following his inaguration, Bibb went to work establishing the young state’s government. Alabama’s capital was originally set up in Huntsville. In 1820, it was moved to Cahawba. Six years later it was Tuscaloosa’s turn and in 1846, the capital was moved one more time to Montgomery. It was also during Bibb’s tenure that the Supreme Court of Alabama, along with the state’s militia were organized.
In 1820, Bibb suffered a fall from his horse and died from a resulting kidney injury on July 10th. Prior to his death, Bibb had dealt with constant pain due to tuberculosis. At the time of William’s death, his brother Thomas was president of the Alabama Senate. As President of the Senate, Thomas stepped in and completed William’s term of office. Governor William Bibb was laid to rest in Elmore County. In 1921, his likeness was placed on the reverse of the Alabama centennial half dollar.