How to Address a Former Governor of a US State



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   1. Formula For
       How to Address     
   2. Q&A / Blog On
       Use of Rank by
       Retired Military    
 

   3. Q&A / Blog on
       How to Address
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How to Address a Former Governor
of a State of the United States

Note: The Honorable is the most frequently used courtesy title for governors. However, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and South Carolina officially and traditionally address their governor as Your Excellency.
 
     Here is a link to a to forms for the spouse of a governor.        
      Here is a link to a to forms for a current governor.    

Envelope, official:
    The Honorable
        (Full name)
            (Address)

Letter salutation:
    Dear Mr./Ms./etc.* (surname):

* Use the honorific they were entitled to before they held the office of governor.

All about The Honorable
Link to Q&A just on officials in the U.S. addressed as The Honorable


FYI, here is what's come in to the Blog that relates to this office/rank.
   For recent questions sent in, check out Robert Hickey's Blog.

   For specific offices/ranks, check out Robert Hickey's On-Line Guide.


How to Address a Letter to a Former Governor?
     What is the proper form of address when writing a letter to a former Governor?  When he calls our office, he says "This is Governor (surname)” even though he is no longer the Governor.  I have made it “The Honorable (full name)” in the letter's address block, and “Dear Governor (surname)” in the salutation. Sound right?
         --- Lonnie Sue Reardon

Dear Ms. Reardon:
   In the letter’s address block a former governor is
            The Honorable (full name).

  
Former office holders go back to whatever they were before they were governor. In the saluation use:
           
Dear Mr./Ms./etc. (name):  
   Only a Governor in office is formally and officially addressed as Governor (name) The reason? There is only one Governor at at time, and it's not respectful of the current office holder to refer to former office holders as it they were still in office.
    I know we hear newscasters referring to former governors as "Governor."  But it is incorrect.
           -- Robert Hickey

       But in this case I know he still want's to be addressed as "Governor"?
         --- Lonnie Sue Reardon
 
    I wonder if when he calls the current governor, he identifies himself as "Governor (Name)"?
    If we met and you introduce yourself as Monsignor Lonnie Sue I would think hummmm, a monsignor is Catholic priest and is always man.  So I would think it is unlikely you are a monsignor. And you are just using your given name ... like Cher, Fabian, or Sting ... which also strikes me as a bit odd for a monsignor.
   But, I'd call you
Monsignor Lonnie Sue in you presence. You say it's your name and it's not up to me to decide what your name is.
   If I knew this former governor wanted to be addressed as "Governor" I'd do it for him, however I wouldn’t think he changed what was correct.
           -- Robert Hickey

             NOTE: I got an interesting e-mail from H.D. about
             my advice on addressing Monsignor Lonnie Sue.
             Click here to read his note.

How to Address a Former Governor in Conversation?
     I read a story recently which said that the organizers of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin’s book tour have asked the public to address her as Governor Palin at her book signings. Is that proper?

                   -- William Perry

Dear Mr. Perry:
    It's not correct. Officially she is addresses as Ms./Mrs. Palin.
    She is not correctly addressed as Mayor Palin either, because Wasilla has a new mayor, and she is not addressed as Governor Palin because Alaska has a new governor.
    Here is the tradition behind this: Jobs of which there is only one officer holder at a time ... Governor of a state Mayor of city, President Vice President of the US, Speaker of the House of Representatives .... do not continue to be directly addressed in writing or conversation by their former "office" because it is not respectful to the current office holder and confusing to those in the (organization/state/whatever) as to who is currently in charge.
    Jobs of which many hold the same office/rank at the same time DO continue to be addressed by their former honorific ... Senator, Judge, Captain, Admiral, General, Professor .... after leaving their position.
    Having worked with many 'formers' I find that they know their correct honorific.  But the handlers may not know what's correct -or- encourage the reference to their boss's former position to curry favors -- which I suspect is the case here.

             -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Former Governor? Former Mayor?
      Good morning Robert:
      I'm writing to inquire into an apparent discrepancy between Judith Martin's writing on former titles and the position you put forth in you wonderful book (let's not even discuss Letitia's written position.) Specifically, Miss Manners writes about the One At A Time Rule (OAAT Rule) applying only to the President and that title holders revert back to their prior highest official title held.  You write that the OAAT Rule refers to all exclusive positions (Gov/Mayor.) which there is only one office holder at a time.
      How does the lay person make sense of what looks like inconsistency within our field?  Many thanks for you help, Robert!
     -- Susan
, Graduate, The Protocol School of Washington

Dear Susan:
    
If Judith Martin says a former governor is formally addressed as "Governor" and a former mayor if formally addressed as "Mayor" ... then I would disagree with her and would not agree it is historically based.   Formally they are "The Honorable" and revert back their highest former title that wasn't a O-A-A-T office.
     I see my book as a listing of the most formal forms of address, figuring that 'informal' is 'free style" and easier: everyone can do it. But I do get people who disagree. Nixon's post-presidential staff addressed him as "Mr. President." I've had e-mails from readers in Annapolis saying they always called former Maryland governors "Govenor (Name)".  I read that Sarah Palin's publishing publicist directed people to call her "Governor Palin' when she was on her book tour. And I've seen Newt Gingrich addressed as "Speaker Gingrich" on TV by George Stefanopolis.  Former vice presidents, prime ministers, chief justices, chairmen, and chancellors, get the same treatment.
     But everytime I have directly asked a current or former "o-a-a-t" office holder ... be they a mayor of a city or president of the country club .... they confirm the "o-a-a-t rule" is correct -- having been in the situation of being 'current' and dealing with 'formers.'
     The point is not denying the former official of his or her history .... or dishonoring their service  ... but in honoring our system that elects just person one at a time to certain high offices .... and being clear who speaks for the authority of the office.
     Re consistency .... I always insert the "most formally" phrase because people do realized that what they hear on TV is narrative in the third person.  A newscaster referring to President Clinton and Secretary Clinton in a story ... is not a direct forms of address.
     I also find that asking the question "in your club or association, is the former president addressed as 'President'?"  That question gets their affirmation that having multiple presidents -- or multiple mayors -- or multiple governors -- is confusing.

           
  -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Former Governor Who Held Other Positions?
    My former boss passed away last week.  He was a U.S. Senator and a two time Oklahoma Governor.  He was a Governor, Senator, then Governor. We are debating how to refer to him in programs and announcements  -- as Senator -- the higher office or as Governor  -- the last office?  Thanks!

    -- Just Wondering in Oklahoma

Dear JWIO:
    
Think about it in the most formal way: would a former governor be called Governor (name) in the presence of the current governor? He would not.
     Former governors are not 'officially' addressed as
Governor (name) because there is only one Governor of a state at a time ... and doing do is not respectful of the state's current governor.
     This holds true for other offices where there is a single office holder ... The Speaker of the House ... the Mayor of a City .... the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
     WHEREAS there are many senators, admirals, judges, ambassadors at a time ... so calling a former office holder by one of those titles is not in conflict with a current office holder.
     So most correctly he is addressed by his highest, non-exclusive honorific:   
                Senator (Name) a man who served as Governor twice ...
    When Dwight Eisenhower left the presidency he went back to General Eisenhower
    That's also what Albert Gore has done ... he's back to Senator Gore, because he can't be Mr. Vice President.
     Bill Clinton and George W. Bush don't have a title to go back to so they are both "Mr."
     ... and Colin Powell is not longer Mr. Secretary or Secretary Powell ... He's back to General Powell.

                           -- Robert Hickey

Robert
     Yea!  I knew it!  In Oklahoma, every person who is a former governor is called governor by those who address him in every social setting I am attending.  Do the Okie's just not know any better?  They are not doing this in front of current Governor, just in the addressing of any former governor.  So, if I see former governor what do I call him?

     It's not just the Okie's ... it just people repeating what they hear the newscasters say.
     If you had been President of some local club ... there would doubtlessly be someone who would continue to call you President (Your Last Name) just to flatter you. Not technically or traditionally correct ... but it happens.
     I have seen hosts of the Sunday morning programs interview Newt Gingrich and call him Speaker Gingrich ... it's not right, but when I observed, he did not correct them on air.
     I see people doing lots of ill advised things ... that they do them -- doesn't make them right. They are either lazy or don't know any better.
     If you meet a former governor and call him "Mr." it won't offend him ... because he will know what's right.
                         -- Robert Hickey


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