Branch was born in North Carolina in 1782, the son of wealthy landowners. He became a lawyer, planter and civic leader. Branch served in the North Carolina State Senate. He was elected governor of the state in 1817.
He was a strong supporter of Andrew Jackson, who named him Secretary of the Navy. He resigned in 1831 and became a state legislator in North Carolina.
In the mid-1830s, Branch moved to Florida and began the famed Live Oak Plantation, a 1,560-acre cotton plantation on the eastern shore of Lake Jackson, north of Tallahassee. Branch lived there 15 years.
President John Tyler appointed Branch as Florida’s territorial governor in 1844. He replaced Richard Keith Call, who ran for governor and lost. Call never held public office again.
William Dunn Moseley, another North Carolina native, won the election and became the state’s first governor.
In the early 1850s, Branch moved back to North Carolina and remained there until his death in 1863.
His portrait was painted by Clearable Jett in 1960. Jett, a native Texan, moved to Tallahassee in the 1940s. She painted historical scenes and historical portraits of early Florida governors.
Information from John Branch: 1782-1863 by Marshall Delancey Haywood, Wikipedia, and From Cotton to Quail: An Agricultural Chronicle of Leon County, Florida, 1860-1967 by Clifton Paisley, was used in this report.