Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

John Branch (1829–1831): Secretary of the Navy

John Branch was born in 1782 near Halifax, North Carolina. He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of North Carolina in 1801 and then read the law, but he never practiced. With money from his wealthy father, Branch bought a large estate in North Carolina and concentrated on running it until 1811, when he entered politics.

From 1811 to 1817, Branch, a Democrat, sat in the state senate, ultimately becoming Speaker. In 1817, he became governor of North Carolina and served three one-year terms. In 1822, Branch was back again in the state Senate, moving into the United States Senate in 1823, where he remained for one term.

In 1829, President Andrew Jackson tapped him as his secretary of the Navy, a position Branch held until he resigned in 1831. That same year, he returned to the United States Congress, this time serving one term in the House of Representatives. He then sat for a term in the North Carolina state Senate before launching an unsuccessful bid to become governor in 1838.

In 1844, President John Tyler appointed Branch governor of Florida, a position he held from 1844 until 1845, when a formal gubernatorial election under the state constitution was held. John Branch died in 1863.