Archibald Roane, second governor of Tennessee, was born in 1760 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He became a lawyer and served with distinction in the Continental Army during the Revolution. Roane arrived in Tennessee in 1788 in the aftermath of the Franklin movement and prior to the creation of the Southwest Territory. He settled first in Jonesborough and established a law practice there before moving to Jefferson County.
Roane’s professional skills soon attracted the attention of Territorial Governor William Blount, who appointed him attorney general for the Washington District and confirmed his position as one of Blount’s protégés. Roane enhanced his reputation when he became the tutor of Hugh Lawson White, son of the founder of Knoxville and a future presidential candidate. In 1796 Roane was selected as a delegate from Jefferson County to the Tennessee constitutional convention.
Roane became one of the first three judges of the Superior Courts of Law and Equity. In 1801, when John Sevier retired after his constitutional three terms in office, Roane was the nearly unanimous choice to replace him as governor–his opponent received fewer than a dozen votes statewide.
During Roane’s administration, Tennessee expanded to three congressional districts, but his term of office is generally remembered more for factional confrontation and controversy than for growth. The first controversy centered on the vacant position of major general of the state militia. An election among the field officers to fill the position resulted in a tie, and Roane, as governor, was required by law to break the deadlock. The two candidates, John Sevier and Andrew Jackson, were well placed, ambitious, and unwilling to concede the highest military position in the state. Roane eventually gave the appointment to Jackson, a decision that surprised few, given the close friendship between the two men. Sevier believed his past military record made him the more qualified candidate, though, and his feud with Jackson escalated sharply. More importantly, Roane’s support for Jackson prompted Sevier to seek reelection as governor in 1803.
In an attempt to assist Roane in his campaign against the popular Sevier, Jackson provided information which implicated the former governor in a series of land fraud schemes dating back to 1795. The evidence was embarrassing for Sevier but inconclusive to voters; Sevier won the election easily.
Following his defeat, Roane returned to his law practice until 1811, when he was elected as Circuit Judge. In 1815 he was elected as judge of the Superior Court of Errors and Appeals. He held that position until his death on January 18, 1819. Roane is buried at Campbell’s Station. Roane County is named in his honor.