John G. Townsend Jr.
John G. Townsend, Jr.jpg
United States Senator
from Delaware
In office
March 4, 1929 – January 3, 1941
Preceded byThomas F. Bayard Jr.
Succeeded byJames M. Tunnell
55th Governor of Delaware
In office
January 16, 1917 – January 18, 1921
LieutenantLewis T. Eliason
Preceded byCharles R. Miller
Succeeded byWilliam D. Denney
Member of the Delaware House of Representatives
In office
January 13, 1903 - January 10, 1905
Personal details
John Gillis Townsend Jr.

(1871-05-31)May 31, 1871
Worcester County, Maryland
DiedApril 10, 1964(1964-04-10) (aged 92)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Jennie Collins
Residence(s)Selbyville, Delaware

John Gillis Townsend Jr. (May 31, 1871 – April 10, 1964) was an American businessman and politician from Selbyville in Sussex County, Delaware. He was a member of the Republican Party who served one term as Governor and two terms as U.S. Senator from Delaware.

Early life and family

Townsend was born in Bishopville, in Worcester County, Maryland, son of John Gillis Townsend and Mariedith Dukes Townsend. He married Jennie Collins, and they had seven children: John G. III, Jennie Thelma, Paul, Julia, Preston Coleman, Edith, and Lyla. His wife was killed in an automobile accident in 1919 while he was governor. They were members of the Methodist Church.

Professional and political career

When the railroad first came through Bishopville, Townsend learned telegraphy and was hired by the Pennsylvania Railroad. Soon he recognized the need for railroad ties, set up a sawmill to make them, and began selling them. In 1896, he moved his family to Selbyville, Delaware, where he began growing strawberries. Before long he was known as the "Strawberry King." To better manage his business he set up his own bank, the Baltimore Trust Company, which became the state's second-largest bank. Townsend, Inc. moved into poultry, corn and soybeans. By the time he died, it was one of the state's largest and most diversified agricultural businesses. He continued his businesses after entering politics and returned to their management when he was not in office.

Governor of Delaware

Townsend was elected to the Delaware House of Representatives and served one term during the 1903-04 session as a member of the Addicks, or Union Republican, faction of the Republican Party. He was elected Governor of Delaware in 1916 by defeating Democrat James H. Hughes, a lawyer from Dover, Delaware.

United States Senator

Townsend was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1928, defeating incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Thomas F. Bayard Jr. and was reelected in 1934, defeating former Democratic U.S. Representative Wilbur L. Adams. Townsend lost his bid for a third term in 1940 to Democrat James M. Tunnell, a lawyer from Georgetown, Delaware.

In the 72nd Congress, he was chairman of the Committee to Audit and Control the Contingent Expenses. He was also a member of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial Commission in 1939 and 1940.

Death and legacy

Townsend died at age 92 in Philadelphia, and is buried in the Red Men's Cemetery at Selbyville.

"Townsend's administration was one of progressiveness and reform...all the major reforms of the 19th century came to maturity during this time: woman suffrage, new and better highways, prohibition, school reform, etc..."[1]

Delaware General Assembly
(sessions while Governor)
Year Assembly Senate majority President
pro tempore
House majority Speaker
1917–1918 99th Republican John A. Barnard Democratic Hervey P. Hall
1919–1920 100th Republican Isaac D. Short Republican Alexander P. Corbit


Elections are held the first Tuesday after November 1. Members of the Delaware General Assembly take office the second Tuesday of January. State representatives have a two-year term. The governor takes office the third Tuesday of January and has a four-year term. U.S. Senators are popularly elected and took office March 4 until 1935, when they began taking office January 3 for a six-year term.

Public offices
Office Type Location Began office Ended office Notes
State Representative Legislature Dover January 13, 1903 January 10, 1905
Governor Executive Dover January 16, 1917 January 18, 1921
U.S. Senator Legislature Washington March 4, 1929 January 3, 1935
U.S. Senator Legislature Washington January 3, 1935 January 3, 1941
Delaware General Assembly service
Dates Assembly Chamber Majority Governor Committees District
1903–1904 92nd State House Republican John Hunn Sussex 7th
United States Congress service
Dates Congress Chamber Majority President Committees Class/District
1929–1931 71st U.S. Senate Republican Herbert Hoover class 1
1931–1933 72nd U.S. Senate Republican Herbert Hoover Audit and Control class 1
1933–1934 73rd U.S. Senate Democratic Franklin D. Roosevelt class 1
1935–1936 74th U.S. Senate Democratic Franklin D. Roosevelt class 1
1937–1938 75th U.S. Senate Democratic Franklin D. Roosevelt class 1
1939–1940 76th U.S. Senate Democratic Franklin D. Roosevelt class 1
Election results
Year Office Subject Party Votes % Opponent Party Votes %
1916 Governor John G. Townsend Jr. Republican 26,664 52% James H. Hughes Democratic 24,053 47%
1928 U.S. Senator John G. Townsend Jr. Republican 63,725 61% Thomas F. Bayard Jr. Democratic 40,828 39%
1934 U.S. Senator John G. Townsend Jr. Republican 52,829 53% Wilbur L. Adams Democratic 45,771 46%
1940 U.S. Senator John G. Townsend Jr. Republican 63,799 47% James M. Tunnell Democratic 68,294 51%


  1. ^ Martin, Roger A. (1984). A History of Delaware Through its Governors. Wilmington, Delaware: McClafferty Press., p. 358.



Party political offices Preceded byCharles R. Miller Republican nominee for Governor of Delaware 1916 Succeeded byWilliam D. Denney Preceded byT. Coleman du Pont Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Delaware(Class 1) 1928, 1934, 1940 Succeeded byJohn J. Williams Political offices Preceded byCharles R. Miller Governor of Delaware 1917–1921 Succeeded byWilliam D. Denney U.S. Senate Preceded byThomas F. Bayard Jr. U.S. Senator from Delaware 1929–1941 Succeeded byJames M. Tunnell