Pickens’s political career began at the local level, where he served in minor public posts, such as commissioner for building the Pendleton District courthouse (1806) and commissioner of the Pendleton Circulating Library Society (1808–1814).
Governor. Andrew Pickens, Jr., was born on November 13, 1779 in Ninety Six District, the son of Rebecca Calhoun and Revolutionary War hero and general Andrew Pickens. He attended Rhode Island College (later Brown University), graduating in 1801. Upon his election to Phi Beta Kappa, his father advised him, “Your improvements in learning . . . are gratifying . . . but you must remember that many, under tutors and governors, perform well, but after they come to act for themselves doe not act so well.” Returning to South Carolina, Pickens married Susan Smith Wilkinson on April 19, 1804. The couple had two children. Pickens studied law in Charleston before settling in Pendleton District, where he took up farming on a portion of his father’s plantation Hopewell. Following the death of his first wife in 1810, Pickens married Mary Nelson of Virginia. They had no children.
Pickens’s political career began at the local level, where he served in minor public posts, such as commissioner for building the Pendleton District courthouse (1806) and commissioner of the Pendleton Circulating Library Society (1808–1814). In 1810 the voters of Pendleton District sent Pickens to the state House of Representatives, where he served a single term. Following the outbreak of war between Great Britain and the United States in 1812, Pickens was commissioned as a lieutenant colonel and served with the U.S. Tenth Infantry and the Forty-third Infantry. He resigned his U.S. Army commission on June 15, 1814, and returned to South Carolina, where he was made a colonel in the state militia.
On December 5, 1816, Pickens was elected governor of South Carolina, the first person from above the state’s fall line to serve in that office. As an upcountry planter, Pickens sympathized with calls from the state’s upper districts to improve transportation links between Charleston and the interior. The need was all the more urgent with cotton prices at all-time highs in the antebellum era. Pickens urged that public funds be spent to create a system of state-owned roads and canals, and in 1818 the legislature appropriated the unprecedented sum of $1 million to implement a statewide program of internal improvements.
Shortly after the end of his term in December 1818, Pickens moved to Alabama, where he acquired large landholdings and took up cotton planting. In 1820 John C. Calhoun, a cousin and longtime friend, helped secure Pickens a commission as U.S. negotiator with the Creek Indians, but he declined to serve. Returning to South Carolina in the early 1830s, Pickens resumed cotton planting at Oatlands plantation in Edgefield District. He died in Mississippi on June 24, 1838, and was buried at Old Stone Churchyard in Pendleton District.
Bailey, N. Louise, ed. Biographical Directory of the South Carolina House of Representatives. Vol. 4, 1791–1815. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1984.
Waring, Alice Noble. The Fighting Elder: Andrew Pickens (1739–1817). Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1962.