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Delaware honors the passing of former Governor Tribbitt

Saturday, August 14th, 2010



Sherman Tribbitt, former Delaware Governor in the mid-1970’s died over the weekend, according to an announcement from Governor Jack Markell’s office.  Governor Markell order flags to be lowered to half staff until memorial arrangements for the late governor are completed in his current home town of Rehoboth.

Mr. Tribbitt was born November 9, 1922 in Denton, Md.  He attended Beacom College (now known as Goldey-Beacom).  He served in the Navy during  World War II and received a Presidential Citation for sinking five German U-Boats in the North Atlantic.  He married Jeanne Webb of Middletown, whose father had been in the Delaware legislature.  That was Mr. Tribbitt’s first taste of politics.  The former governor and his father-in-law opened the Odessa Supply company, a hardware store,  after the war.  

In 1956 he won a seat in Dover as state representative.  He served through 1964.  He was Speaker of the House from 1958-1964.   Sherman Tribbitt was elected Lt. Governor of Delaware in 1964  in a ticket headed by Charles Terry.  The ticket lost to republican Russell Peterson in 1968.  After two years out of politics Mr. Tribbitt was again elected to the House of Representatives and was named minority leader in 1970.  In 1972 he ran for govenor and beat the incument Peterson. 

Sherman Tribbitt served Delaware through some very trying times.  As Lt. Governor he served during the rise of the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement.  As Governor Mr. Tribbitt had to deal with a financial crisis that has a similarity to a crisis we hear about today.  State owned Farmers Bank was facing financial collapse in 1975.  The bank disclosed a loss of $22.5 million in bad loans.  If the bank had collapsed the state’s economy might have gone with it.  Governor Tribbitt is credited with working with the legislature to find a solution to save the bank.  “There had to be something done to avoid probably the whole state going bankrupt. He worked with bankers and federal agencies to try to shore up the bank itself and make sure the bank was solvent and make sure it didn’t go down the tube, taking the state with it,” said Roger Martin, the author of a book about Mr. Tribbitt.

Mr. Tribbitt was governor when the controversial federal court ruling ordering Wilmington schools to desegregate was handed down.  That ruling included forced busing and combined all of New Castle County into one school district at the time. 

Official portrait for Governor Sherman TribbittSherman Tribbitt ran for re-election in 1976, but was defeated by republican Pete DuPont.  He has remained active in Delaware for many years.  He worked with the  Delaware River Basin Commission and in 1992 he was the presidential elector for Delaware.  He is also the first governor to live in Woodburn, the governor’s home in Dover.

Governor Markell released a statement on Sherman Tribbitt’s passing Saturday: “Governor Tribbitt loved his family, his state and his nation. He served his country at home and abroad, during war and peace, with conviction and commitment,” Markell said. “He reached out to me shortly after I became State Treasurer to offer advice and maintained a strong interest in the health and well-being of our great state.”

Sherman TribbittThere is an official biography on the National Governor’s Association website.  There has even been a facebook page set up for those who want to leave comments.  Former Governor Sherman Tribbitt was 87.


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