Office of the Governor

Between being made a territory of the United States in 1819 and becoming a state in 1836, Arkansas was overseen by four territorial governors. Appointed by the president to a three-year term (with the possibility of reappointment), territorial governors simultaneously served as commander of the militia and superintendent of Indian Affairs, though Arkansas’s first territorial governor, James Miller, was little more than an absentee landlord. Miller was appointed on March 3, 1819, but did not arrive in Arkansas until December 26; he was later absent from April 1821 to November 1822 and left again in June 1823 never to return. He never moved his family to Arkansas. In his absence, Robert Crittenden was the de facto governor of the territory. Subsequent territorial governors, such as George Izard and John Pope, however, worked hard to establish Arkansas’s institutions and ready the land for statehood.

The constitution of 1836 created a popularly elected governor responsible for the execution of the laws of the state, with the power to recommend legislation to the Arkansas General Assembly and also the power of veto and pardon. This person served as commander of the state militia. The constitution assigned the governor a term of four years with a limit on reelection to no more than eight total years out of any twelve. There was no position of lieutenant governor; rather, the line of succession went from the president of the state Senate to the speaker of the state House of Representatives. The civilian powers of the governor remained essentially unchanged when Arkansas adopted the constitution of 1861 as it became a part of the Confederate States of America, though the governor’s term was shortened to two years. However, the constitution of 1861 placed the state militia under a three-man board that included the governor, rather than making the governor the commander-in-chief, a move indicative of the hostility many lawmakers felt toward Henry Massie Rector.

In 1864, officials loyal to the Union adopted and ratified a new constitution to obtain Federal recognition and support. The main effect of this document upon the governorship was the creation of the lieutenant governor position. However, the constitution of 1868, adopted to secure Arkansas’s reentry into the Union, greatly expanded the powers of the governor to include the appointment of judges and the selection of assessors; in addition, the elected terms of both the governor and lieutenant governor were expanded to four years.

Arkansas’s current constitution (as of 2008), adopted in 1874 by Democrats largely interested in rolling back Reconstruction-era reforms, reduced the governor’s term to two years, limited powers of appointment, and reduced control over the state militia. The office of lieutenant governor was eliminated. It was later reestablished in the wake of succession problems linked to John Sebastian Little with the adoption of Amendment 6, approved by voters in 1914 and upheld by the state Supreme Court in 1926. The lieutenant governor became first in the line of succession should the governor die, be incapacitated, or vacate the office. Amendment 63, approved in 1984, lengthened the term of all constitutional officers, including the governor, back to four years. In 1992, Amendment 73 imposed term limits on a variety of elected officials, including the governor, who was limited to a maximum of two elected terms in office.

The constitution of 1874 requires the governor to be a U.S. citizen at least thirty years of age and to have resided in Arkansas for seven years. It accords him the status of “commander-in-chief of the military and naval forces of this State, except when they shall be called into actual service of the United States.” The governor can exercise an “item veto” over legislation, as well as pardon, grant reprieves, and commute sentences, save in cases of treason and impeachment. The governor also has the power to call the state legislature into a special session.

Territorial Governor Took Office Left Office Party
Appointed by
 1   James Miller 3/3/1819 12/27/1824 None James Monroe
 2   George Izard 3/4/1825 11/22/1828 None James Monroe/
John Quincy Adams
 3   John Pope 3/9/1829 3/9/1835 Democrat Andrew Jackson
 4   William Savin Fulton 3/9/1835 6/15/1836 Democrat Andrew Jackson
Governor Took Office Left Office Party
Lt. Governor
 1   James Sevier Conway (1796–1855) 9/13/1836 11/4/1840 Democrat none
 2   Archibald Yell (1797?–1847) 11/4/1840 4/29/1844 Democrat none
 3   Thomas Stevenson Drew (1802–1879) 11/9/1844 1/10/1849 Democrat none
 4   John Selden Roane (1817–1867) 4/19/1849 11/15/1852 Democrat none
 5   Elias Nelson Conway (1812–1892) 11/15/1852 11/15/1860 Democrat none
 6   Henry Massie Rector (1816–1899) 11/15/1860 11/4/1862 Independent Democrat none
 7   Harris Flanagin (1817–1874) 11/15/1862 5/28/1865 Independent none
 8   Isaac Murphy (1799–1882) 4/18/1864 7/2/1868 Independent Calvin Bliss
 9   Powell Clayton (1833–1914) 7/2/1868 3/17/1871 Republican James M. Johnson
Ozro Amander Hadley (1826–1915) 3/17/1871 1/6/1873 Republican none
 10   Elisha Baxter (1827–1899) 1/6/1873 11/12/1874 Republican Vonley V. Smith
 11   Augustus Hill Garland (1832–1899) 11/12/1874 1/11/1877 Democrat none
 12   William Read Miller (1823–1887) 1/11/1877 1/13/1881 Democrat none
 13   Thomas James Churchill (1824–1905) 1/13/1881 1/13/1883 Democrat none
 14   James Henderson Berry (1841–1913) 1/13/1883 1/15/1885 Democrat none
 15   Simon Pollard Hughes (1830–1906) 1/15/1885 1/17/1889 Democrat none
 16   James Philip Eagle (1837–1904) 1/17/1889 1/14/1893 Democrat none
 17   William Meade Fishback (1831–1903) 1/14/1893 1/18/1895 Democrat none
 18   James Paul Clarke (1854–1916) 1/18/1895 1/18/1897 Democrat none
 19   Daniel Webster Jones (1839–1918) 1/18/1897 1/18/1901 Democrat none
 20   Jeff Davis (1862–1913) 1/18/1901 1/18/1907 Democrat none
 21   John Sebastian Little (1851–1916) 1/18/1907 2/7/1907 Democrat none
 22   George Washington Donaghey (1856–1937) 1/14/1909 1/16/1913 Democrat none
 23   Joseph Taylor Robinson (1872–1937) 1/16/1913 3/10/1913 Democrat none
 24   George Washington Hays (1863–1927) 8/6/1913 1/10/1917 Democrat vacant
 25   Charles Hillman Brough (1876–1935) 1/10/1917 1/12/1921 Democrat vacant
 26   Thomas Chipman McRae (1851–1929) 1/12/1921 1/14/1925 Democrat vacant
 27   Thomas Jefferson Terral (1882–1946) 1/14/1925 1/11/1927 Democrat vacant
 28   John Ellis Martineau (1873–1937) 1/11/1927 3/4/1928 Democrat Harvey Parnell
 29   Harvey Parnell (1880–1936) 3/4/1928 1/10/1933 Democrat William Lee Cazort/
Lawrence Elery Wilson
 30   Junius Marion Futrell (1870–1955) 1/10/1933 1/12/1937 Democrat William Lee Cazort
 31   Carl Edward Bailey (1894–1948) 1/12/1937 1/14/1941 Democrat Robert Bailey
 32   Homer Martin Adkins (1890–1964) 1/14/1941 1/9/1945 Democrat Robert Bailey/
James L. Shaver
 33   Benjamin Travis Laney Jr. (1896–1977) 1/9/1945 1/11/1949 Democrat James L. Shaver/
Nathan Green Gordon
 34   Sidney Sanders McMath (1912–2003) 1/11/1949 1/13/1953 Democrat Nathan Green Gordon
 35   Francis Adams Cherry (1908–1965) 1/13/1953 1/11/1955 Democrat Nathan Green Gordon
 36   Orval Eugene Faubus (1910–1994) 1/11/1955 1/10/1967 Democrat Nathan Green Gordon
 37   Winthrop Rockefeller (1912–1973) 1/10/1967 1/12/1971 Republican Maurice Britt
 38   Dale Leon Bumpers (1925–) 1/12/1971 1/2/1975 Democrat Bob C. Riley
 39   David Hampton Pryor (1934–) 1/14/1975 1/3/1979 Democrat Joe Purcell
 40   William Jefferson Clinton (1946–) 1/9/1979 1/13/1981 Democrat Joe Purcell
 41   Frank Durward White (1933–2003) 1/19/1981 1/11/1983 Republican Winston Bryant
 42   William Jefferson Clinton (1946–) 1/11/1983 12/12/1992 Democrat Winston Bryant/
Jim Guy Tucker
 43   James Guy Tucker Jr. (1943–) 12/12/1992 7/15/1996 Democrat Mike Huckabee
 44   Michael Dale Huckabee (1955–) 7/15/1996 1/9/2007 Republican Winthrop Paul Rockefeller
 45   Mickey Dale Beebe (1946–) 1/9/2007 1/13/2015 Democrat Bill Halter/Mark Darr
 46   Asa Hutchinson (1950–) 1/13/2015 ——— Republican Tim Griffin
 46   Sarah Huckabee Sanders (1982–) ——— ——— Republican Leslie Rutledge

For additional information:
Blair, Diane, and Jay Barth. Arkansas Politics and Government. 2nd ed. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005.

Brown, Robert L. Defining Moments: Historic Decisions by Arkansas Governors from McMath through Huckabee. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2010.

Donovan, Timothy P., Willard B. Gatewood Jr., and Jeannie M. Whayne, eds. The Governors of Arkansas: Essays in Political Biography. 2nd ed. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1995.

First Families Collection. Old State House Museum Online Collections. First Families Collection (accessed August 22, 2022).

First Families Exhibition. Old State House Museum Online Collections. First Families Exhibition (accessed August 22, 2022).

Goss, Kay C. The Arkansas Constitution: A Reference Guide. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1993.

Governor of Arkansas. (accessed August 22, 2022).

Governors of Arkansas Exhibition. Old State House Museum Online Collections. Governors Exhibition (accessed August 22, 2022).

Staff of the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas


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