Asa Hodges (1822–1900)
Asa Hodges was a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives. He represented the First District of Arkansas in the Forty-Third Congress, serving from 1873 to 1875.
Asa Hodges was born on January 22, 1822, near Moulton, Alabama, to William Hodges and Jeanette Daugherty Hodges. He and his family later moved to Marion (Crittenden County). After receiving his early education in local schools, he graduated from LaGrange College in LaGrange, Missouri, in 1848. Hodges also studied law and was admitted to the Alabama state bar in 1848. He then began to practice law, working first in the offices of L. P. Walker in Florence, Alabama, and later forming a legal partnership with Thomas M. Peters, who would later serve as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. In April 1853, Hodges married Caroline Chick, and shortly after their marriage, he bought a cotton plantation, worked by slaves, in Crittenden County, Arkansas, to which they moved. Shortly afterward, Hodges was made a probate judge in the county.
Hodges does not appear to have served in the Confederate military, but at one point he was arrested and imprisoned as a Confederate sympathizer. After the Civil War, Hodges emerged as a leading “scalawag,” getting deeply involved in the state politics of the era. After first serving as a delegate to the Arkansas Constitutional Convention in 1867, he won election to the state House of Representatives the following year. Eager to move up the political ladder, Hodges next won election to the state Senate, a seat he held from 1870 to 1873. Hodges set his sights on the U.S. House of Representatives, and running as a Republican in 1872, he won by fewer than 1,000 votes. He took his seat in 1873 and represented the First District until 1875.
Although busy in Washington DC, Hodges could not escape the turmoil that broke out in Arkansas in 1874, known as the Brooks-Baxter War. In fact, Hodges had previously clashed with Governor Elisha Baxter, who was at the center of the conflict over the Arkansas governorship.
After the Brooks-Baxter conflict had ended with Baxter declared the legitimate governor, Hodges opted not to seek reelection, returning home and resuming the practice of law while also pursuing his longtime agricultural interests, including operating a cotton plantation in Mississippi. He also purchased city property in Memphis, Tennessee, establishing himself as a well-respected attorney and landowner. In 1888, voters overwhelmingly returned him to the Arkansas General Assembly as a member of the House of Representatives, where he served until 1890.
Hodges died near Marion on June 6, 1900. He is interred in Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis.
For additional information:
“Asa Hodges.” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=H000671 (accessed October 5, 2021).
Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Eastern Arkansas. Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1890.
“The Contested Arkansas Seats.” Morning Republican (Little Rock, Arkansas), February 11, 1874, p. 4.
William H. Pruden III
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