Past Delaware Governor



      Sherman Willard Tribbitt was born in Denton, Maryland on November 9, 1922, the son of Sherman L & Minnie Thawley Tribbitt.  Sherman's father, Sherman L., was employed in both Real Estate & Insurance and was Chairman of the Caroline County Republican Central Committee.  Minnie, Sherman's mother, was a registered and strong believer in the Democratic Party.

      Politics fascinated Sherman while growing up due to his parent's political beliefs.  His fascination was further increased when "President Franklin Roosevelt" visited Denton in 1938.  When he graduated from Caroline High School, he went to Wilmington, Delaware and took a two year course in accounting at Beacom College, (Goldey Beacom College Today) which he completed in 1941.

      After completion of his studies, he was employed by the Security Trust Company in Wilmington for a short time.  In December 1942, due to World War II, he joined the U.S. Navy and served throughout the entire war.  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.  In 1943, while still in the service, he married Jeanne Webb of Middletown, De., who he had met on a blind date while working at the Security Trust Company in Wilmington.

      After serving his country, he returned home and, along with his father-in-law E. Sherman Webb, opened the Odessa Supply Company in Odessa, De.  This business served the Odessa area as a hardware supply store.

      Sherman's political fascination was further sparked by his father-in-law who had previously served the State of Delaware in the General Assembly as a State Representative.  In 1956 he ran for the office of State Representative for the first time and won.  He was re-elected as a Representative in 1958, 1960, and 1962.  From 1958 through 1964 he served as the Speaker of the House.

      In 1964 the Democratic Party of the State nominated Tribbitt to run for the office of Lieutenant-Governor with gubernatorial candidate "Charles Layman Terry, Jr.  Charles Terry defeated "David P. Buckson" for the Governor's seat and Sherman defeated William T. Best for the Lt. Governor's spot.  Governor Terry's term was not known as an easy time in American History.  The Vietnam War droned on and Civil Rights demonstrations were being staged nationwide.  When coming up for re-election in 1968 Charles Terry lost to "Russell W. Peterson" & Sherman lost to Eugene Bookhammer.

      After sitting out for two years Tribbitt again ran for the office of State Representative in 1970 against William David and won.  Tribbitt was named the Minority Leader by his peers in the State House.

      In 1972, the Democratic Party of the State nominated Sherman W. Tribbitt as their candidate for the office of Governor against incumbent "Russell W. Peterson".  Clifford Hearn was also nominated to run as Lieutenant Governor against Eugene Bookhammer.  Tribbitt won with 51.2% of the vote (117,274) to Peterson's 47.9% (109,583).  Hearn, however, was defeated by Bookhammer.

      Sherman Willard Tribbitt was inaugurated on January 16, 1973 as Delaware's 72nd Governor.  Governor Tribbitt and his family moved into and resided full time at "Woodburn", the Governor's House purchased during Governor Terry's administration.

      The Tribbitt's were the first Governor's family to reside in Woodburn on a full time basis.  During their four years in Woodburn Mrs. Tribbitt opened the house daily for tours and guided each tour herself with great pride.  She had a particular pride in decorating and sharing the home with those to whom it belonged, the citizens of Delaware.  The wedding of their daughter Carole became the first wedding held in Woodburn since it became the Governor's official residence.

      The State House & Senate, during Tribbitt's first two years, were controlled by the Republican Party.  After the elections of 1974, however, the Democrats gained control of both the House and Senate.

      Perhaps Tribbitt's greatest triumph during his administration was saving the heavily state owned bank, Farmer's Bank, from financial collapse.  In late 1975 the bank dropped the bombshell on Tribbitt that they had a loss of $22.5 million in bad loans.  If the bank folded, so could the state.  Governor Tribbitt and the leadership of the General Assembly fought on almost daily to keep the bank afloat.  It is during this fight that Tribbitt also faced his re-election to the Governor's office.

      During Tribbitt's administration, A Freedom of Information Act (Sunshine Law) was passed along with a new program that would make public buildings accessible to the handicapped.  Tolls were taken off the I-95 ramp leading to Newark, De. and the capital gains tax was reduced from 100% to 50%.  A new direct primary law for political parties was set up to replace the nominating conventions.  A new Department of Community Affairs and Economic Development was created to attract new industry to the state.  In addition to these actions, the lottery was rejuvenated, a cost of living (COLA) pay raise was built in for state employees (later removed) and Governor Tribbitt vetoed a bill which would have raised the governor's salary to $50,000.00.

      In 1976 the Democratic Party again nominated Tribbitt to run for the office of Governor against "Pierre S. du pont, IV" of the Republican party.  James D. McGinnis was also nominated by the Democrats to run against Andrew Foltz for the office of Lieutenant Governor.  Pierre du pont won with 56.8% of the vote to Tribbitt's 42.4%.  James D. McGinnis, however, defeated Andrew Foltz.

      While Governor, Sherman Tribbitt literally worked during his entire term with no vacation, and hardly a day out of the state.  He traveled incessantly from Delmar to Claymont to share good will and celebrate public events with Delaware's citizens.

      After leaving the office of Governor Tribbitt worked with the Delaware River Basin Commission & the Diamond Group consulting firm in Odessa, Delaware.  He and his wife Jeanne had three children, James, Carole, and Sherman "Tip" Tribbitt.  They resided in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

      On August 14, 2010 Governor Sherman Willard Tribbitt passed away in Rehoboth Beach, DE. He was interred in the Old Drawyer's Cemetery in Odessa, Delaware.

      


      

Email any questions or comments to:
Russ Pickett
Last update: Sunday, August 15, 2010