Sherman W. Tribbitt
67th Governor of Delaware
In office
January 16, 1973 – January 18, 1977
LieutenantEugene Bookhammer
Preceded byRussell W. Peterson
Succeeded byPete du Pont
17th Lieutenant Governor of Delaware
In office
January 19, 1965 – January 21, 1969
GovernorCharles L. Terry, Jr.
Preceded byEugene Lammot
Succeeded byEugene Bookhammer
Member of the Delaware House of Representatives
In office
January 8, 1957 - January 12, 1965
January 12, 1971 - January 9, 1973
Personal details
Sherman Willard Tribbitt

(1922-11-09)November 9, 1922
Denton, Maryland, U.S.
DiedAugust 14, 2010(2010-08-14) (aged 87)
Milford, Delaware, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Jeanne Webb
Residence(s)Odessa, Delaware
Alma materBeacom College

Sherman Willard Tribbitt (November 9, 1922 – August 14, 2010) was an American merchant and politician from Odessa in New Castle County, Delaware.[1] He was a World War II veteran and a member of the Democratic Party who served in the Delaware General Assembly, as the 17th lieutenant governor of Delaware, and as the 67th governor of Delaware.

Early life and family

Tribbitt was born in Denton, Maryland, the son of Sherman L. and Minnie Thawley Tribbitt. He married Jeanne Webb in 1943. They had three children, James, Carol, and Sherman "Tip", and were members of the Presbyterian Church. He studied accounting at Beacom College in Wilmington, Delaware and briefly worked at the Security Trust Company in Wilmington. During World War II he served in the United States Navy. In early 1945 he was aboard the destroyer USS Frost in the North Atlantic when his unit received a Presidential Citation for sinking five U-boats.

Professional and political career

Following World War II, he and his father-in-law operated the Odessa Supply Company in Odessa, Delaware, where they lived.

In 1956, Tribbitt was elected to the first of four terms in the Delaware House of Representatives, where he served from 1957 to 1964. He was Speaker from 1959 to 1964. Tribbitt prevailed in a difficult convention contest for the nomination and was elected lieutenant governor of Delaware in 1964, defeating William T. Best, a State Representative from Rehoboth Beach. He served from January 19, 1965 to January 21, 1969. Surprised to find Governor Charles L. Terry Jr. wanted to serve two terms, Tribbitt had no choice but to run for a second term himself. Like Terry, he was narrowly defeated in the 1968 Republican landslide by Eugene Bookhammer, a State Senator from Lewes.

Governor of Delaware

Patiently planning a political recovery, Tribbitt was elected again to the Delaware House of Representatives in 1970 and was immediately elected minority leader for the 1971–72 session. When Governor Russell W. Peterson stumbled over the state's finances, Tribbitt had another opportunity for the governorship and was elected governor in 1972, defeating Peterson.

Tribbitt nearly made an appointment to the U.S. Senate. Future president Joe Biden was elected to the Senate in same year Tribbitt was elected. On December 18, 1972, Biden’s wife and daughter died in car crash which injured Biden’s sons. Biden contemplating on resigning his Senate seat, but decided to stay in the Senate up until his election as vice president 36 years later.

Tribbitt inherited the same state financial picture that forced his predecessor from office. In this time of high inflation there was constant pressure to raise salaries, particularly for teachers. Delaware's income tax rates were already among the highest in the nation and the solution was not obvious. There was an effort to levy a large tax on the one oil refinery in the state, but that was derailed when the owner, J. Paul Getty, threatened to close it. The union workers there opposed the legislation out of fear for their jobs. But the most serious financial crises involved the near-collapse of the Farmers' Bank of Delaware. It was the state's official bank, where all its funds were kept, and where many private investors had their life savings. The whole last year of Tribbitt's administration was spent trying to rectify the situation. Eventually the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) agreed to make a large investment in the bank and buy many of its loans, but the state had to invest many millions as well. In 1981, under the next administration, the bank was sold.

Tribbitt took other steps to raise revenue, including beginning the Delaware Lottery. He also created the Department of Community Affairs and Economic Development to attract new industry to the state. Tribbitt sought a second term in 1976, but, largely because of the unresolved financial situation, was defeated by U.S. Representative Pete du Pont.

Delaware General Assembly
(sessions while Governor)
Year Assembly Senate Majority President
pro tempore
House Majority Speaker
1973–1974 127th Democratic J. Donald Isaacs Republican John F. Kirk, Jr.
1975–1976 128th Democratic J. Donald Isaacs Democratic Casimir S. Jonkiert

Later career

Tribbitt made another bid for governor in 1984, losing the Democratic primary to former Delaware Supreme Court justice William T. Quillen. In an unusual campaign tactic, Tribbitt refused to debate his courtroom-trained opponent, saying that he would lose the debate. After leaving office he worked with the Delaware River Basin Commission and the Diamond Group consulting firm. He relocated to Dover and finally to Rehoboth Beach.


Sherman Tribbitt died on August 14, 2010, at the age of 87, a week after a severe fall. He had suffered from Alzheimer's disease. Jack Markell, Governor of Delaware at the time, ordered state flags lowered to half staff in Tribbitt's honor.[2]


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 and Lieutenant Governor take office the third Tuesday of January and each has a four-year term.

Public Offices
Office Type Location Began office Ended office notes
State Representative Legislature Dover January 8, 1957 January 13, 1959
State Representative Legislature Dover January 13, 1959 January 10, 1961
State Representative Legislature Dover January 10, 1961 January 8, 1963
State Representative Legislature Dover January 8, 1963 January 12, 1965
Lt. Governor Executive Dover January 19, 1965 January 21, 1969
State Representative Legislature Dover January 12, 1971 January 9, 1973
Governor Executive Dover January 16, 1973 January 18, 1977
Delaware General Assembly service
Dates Assembly Chamber Majority Governor Committees District
1957–1958 119th State House Democratic J. Caleb Boggs New Castle 13th
1959–1960 120th State House Democratic J. Caleb Boggs Speaker New Castle 13th
1961–1962 121st State House Democratic Elbert N. Carvel Speaker New Castle 13th
1963–1964 122nd State House Democratic Elbert N. Carvel Speaker New Castle 13th
1971–1972 126th State House Republican Russell W. Peterson 27th
Election results
Year Office Election Subject Party Votes % Opponent Party Votes %
1964 Lt. Governor General Sherman W. Tribbitt Democratic 108,742 55% William T. Best Republican 89,675 45%
1968 Lt. Governor General Sherman W. Tribbitt Democratic 99,421 49% Eugene D. Bookhammer Republican 101,839 51%
1972 Governor General Sherman W. Tribbitt Democratic 117,274 51% Russell W. Peterson Republican 109,583 48%
1976 Governor General Sherman W. Tribbitt Democratic 97,480 42% Pierre S. du Pont, IV Republican 130,531 57%
1984 Governor Primary Sherman W. Tribbitt Democratic 14,185 41% William T. Quillen Democratic 20,473 59%

See also


  1. ^ "Flags to be lowered for former Gov. Tribbitt". The News Journal. August 14, 2010.
  2. ^ "Former Delaware Gov. Sherman W. Tribbitt Dies". Wall Street Journal. Associated Press. 14 August 2010. Archived from the original on 25 August 2010. Retrieved 14 August 2010.


Places with more information

Party political offices Preceded byCharles L. Terry Jr. Democratic nominee for Governor of Delaware 1972, 1976 Succeeded byWilliam J. Gordy Political offices Preceded byEugene Lammot Lieutenant Governor of Delaware 1965-1969 Succeeded byEugene Bookhammer Preceded byRussell W. Peterson Governor of Delaware 1973-1977 Succeeded byPierre S. du Pont IV