Hon. Alvin Hawkins, ex-governor of Tennessee, like his two immediate predecessors, is a native of Kentucky. Mr. Hawkins was born in Bath County, of that State, December 2, 1821. His father, John M. Hawkins, was the descendant of an ancient English family, and quite a number of his early ancestors were prominent in English history. The mother of our subject was Polly G. Ralston, whose mother was a Neely, a family prominent in Indiana and other Western States. Alvin Hawkins is the eldest of thirteen sons, eleven of whom reached man’s estate, and eight of whom are now living. All of them have held important public positions. When Mr. Hawkins was about five years of age he with his parents removed to Maury County, Tenn., and there remained two years. The family then came to Carroll County. The father of our subject died in Carroll County in 1852, greatly respected. The boyhood of Mr. Hawkins was spent assisting his father in the gun shop and attending the country schools, although his mother was his principal teacher at home.
Later in life he engaged in farm labor, and at the age of eighteen became a student at McLemoresville Academy. When twenty years of age Mr. Hawkins entered the law office of Hon. Benjamin C. Totten, and studied under his direction. One year later he was admitted to the bar and became a co-partner in the law practice with Isaac R. Hawkins, and soon gained prominence in the legal profession. He had for his colleagues such men as Parvatt, Allen and James, of Huntingdon; Isaac B. Williams and the Harrises, of Paris; R. P. Raines, of Trenton; McCorry and the Browns, of Jackson, and others. In politics he was formerly a Whig, and is now a Republican. In 1845 he made the race for the Legislature for Benton and Humphreys Counties, but was defeated, owing to the counties being largely Democratic.
In 1847 he was married to Miss Justinia M. Ott, of Murfreesboro, Tenn., by whom he had seven children, but two of whom are now living. In 1853 he was elected to the Legislature, but declined a re-election, and continued his law practice until 1860, when he was nominated presidential elector on the Bell and Everett ticket for his district. In 1864 he was appointed by one of the justices of the supreme court of the United States to the office of district attorney for West Tennessee, and was reappointed in 1865 by President Johnson to the same office. In September of the same year he resigned, and was appointed to a position on the supreme bench of Tennessee, but resigned in 1868 and returned to private life. President Johnson appointed him consul-general of the United States at Havana, but he soon resigned, and in 1869 was elected judge of the supreme court of Tennessee. He joined the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1875, and has held some important positions in that church. In 1880 he was elected governor of Tennessee on the Republican ticket, and was a candidate for re-election in 1882, but was defeated by Gen. William B. Bate. Mr. Hawkins is now engaged in the practice of law at Huntingdon, Carroll Co., Tenn. He made a good governor and judge, and as a lawyer is one of the most prominent in West Tennessee. He is one of the leading citizens of the State, a man of the highest character, and a prominent leader of his political party.
Transcribed by David Donahue
Source: History of Tennessee from the Earliest Time to the Present: Together with an Historical and a Biographical Sketch of Carroll, Henry and Benton Counties, Besides a Valuable Fund of Notes, Original Observations, Reminiscences, Etc., Etc. Easley, S.C.: Southern Historical Press, 1978.