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Thomas Broughton

Union or Secession
Thomas Greene Broughton (1786–1861). Image courtesy of Charlotte Shepard.
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Thomas Greene Broughton (1786–1861). Image courtesy of Charlotte Shepard.
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THOMAS GREENE BROUGHTON (1786–1861)

Thomas Greene Broughton (27 September 1786–24 August 1861), journalist, was born in Princess Anne County, the son of Charles Broughton and Elizabeth Greene Broughton. He grew up there but as a young man moved to Norfolk, where on 6 May 1808 he married Ann Bell, a native of Carlisle, England. They had six sons and six daughters. In addition, Broughton was serving as guardian of a young woman at the time of her marriage in 1811.

Beginning in 1808 Broughton worked for seven years as an editor for James O'Connor, publisher of the Norfolk and Portsmouth Herald. In 1815 Broughton became O'Connor's partner and part owner of the newspaper, and following O'Connor's death in July 1819 he became sole publisher and editor. Originally issued on Wednesdays and Saturdays, the newspaper under Broughton's editorship expanded from a triweekly publication with a separate edition for outlying areas to a daily paper (except Sundays) beginning on 13 August 1840. With name changes to the Norfolk and Portsmouth Herald and General Advertiser in 1833, the Norfolk and Portsmouth Herald and Daily Commercial Advertiser in 1843, and back to the Norfolk and Portsmouth Herald by 1847, the paper was one of the most successful and long-lived of all the lower Tidewater papers and circulated in northeastern North Carolina as well as Virginia. Broughton's son Thomas Gibson Broughton became a partner with him in the ownership and publication of the paper in 1836 as Thomas G. Broughton and Son, and later another son, Richard Gatewood Broughton, joined them. By the mid-1840s T. G. Broughton and Company served also as a general printer. The firm continued publishing the daily newspaper until a shortage of paper forced it to suspend publication sometime in the summer of 1861. Broughton's death shortly thereafter and the turmoil associated with the Civil War in Norfolk kept his sons from resuming publication thereafter.

Broughton and his sons supported the Whig Party from early in the 1830s until its demise in the mid-1850s. They backed John Bell, the Constitutional Union Party candidate who carried Virginia in the 1860 presidential race, and they were Unionists during the secession crisis. Besides becoming the senior journalist in Norfolk, Broughton was also a respected community leader. He sat on the Norfolk common council, was secretary of the board of health during a cholera epidemic in 1832, and served for two decades before his death as a ruling elder in the local Presbyterian church. Thomas Greene Broughton died in Norfolk on 24 August 1861 and was buried in Cedar Grove Cemetery in that city.

Contributed by W. A. Brown

This biography, with a bibliographical note, appears in John T. Kneebone et al., eds., Dictionary of Virginia Biography (Richmond: The Library of Virginia, 1998– ), 2:277.

Copyright 2001 by the Library of Virginia. All rights reserved.