William Tharp Watson (June 22 1849 – April 14 1917) was an American banker and politician from Milford, in Kent County, Delaware. He was a member of the Democratic Party, who served in the Delaware General Assembly and as Governor of Delaware.
Watson was a Democrat, and was first elected to the State House in 1884, but his eligibility was challenged due his previous residence in Philadelphia. As a result did not take his seat and waited eight years, until 1892, to seek office again. Then he was elected to the State Senate and served in the 1893/94 session and the 1895/96 session, when he was the Speaker. The 1894 elections, however, resulted in a Republican State House and a Republican Governor. Regardless, the State Senate kept its Democratic majority, and when Governor Joshua H. Marvil died, the Speaker of the State Senate succeeded him. Watson assumed the office of Governor of Delaware and served from April 8 1895 until January 19 1897.
All the while the Delaware General Assembly was attempting to elect a U.S. Senator. Since the two houses voted together, the more numerous Republicans held an overall majority and attempted to elect Henry A. du Pont to the office. But the Republicans were divided and enough supported the candidacy of Addicks to barely prevent a majority from electing du Pont. Then, with accession of Watson to the Governor's office, the total number of members seemed to be reduced and du Pont had a majority. The Delaware General Assembly went to vote only to find Watson had returned to his old State Senate seat, casting his vote for the Democratic candidate, but more importantly preventing du Pont from receiving a majority. This was an unprecedented action by an Acting Governor, but the Delaware Constitution of 1831, then in effect, did not address the question. The Republican Speaker of the State House disallowed the vote and certified the election of du Pont, but the Democratic controlled U.S. Senate rejected his credentials, thereby preserving its own majority. This, of course, was the real purpose behind Watson's action. The soon to be drafted, Delaware Constitution of 1897, resolved the issue for good by creating the independent office of Lieutenant Governor.
Because of Governor Marvil's death, the General Assembly scheduled the next gubernatorial election in 1896, two years into the term. Delaware's gubernatorial elections have been held in the year of the U.S. Presidential election ever since.
|Delaware General Assembly |
(sessions while Governor)
|Year||Assembly||Senate Majority||Speaker||House Majority||Speaker|
|1895-1896||88th||Democratic||vacant||Republican||Henry H. McMullen|
|Office||Type||Location||Elected||Took Office||Left Office||notes|
|State Senator||Legislature||Dover||1892||January 6 1893||April 8 1895|
|Governor||Executive||Dover||April 8 1895||January 19 1897||acting|
|Delaware General Assembly service|
|1893-1894||87th||State Senate||Democratic||Robert J. Reynolds||Kent at-large|
|1895-1896||88th||State Senate||Democratic||Joshua H. Marvil||Speaker||Kent at-large|