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
Affiliation
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
Affiliation
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 Democrat none
7 Harris Flanagin (1817–1874) 11/15/1862 5/26/1865 Democrat Calvin Bliss
8 Isaac Murphy (1799–1882) 4/18/1864 7/2/1868 Republican Calvin Bliss
9 Powell Clayton (1833–1914) 7/2/1868 3/17/1871 Republican James M. Johnson
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

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 October 3, 2016).

First Families Exhibition. Old State House Museum Online Collections. First Families Exhibition (accessed October 3, 2016).

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

Governor of Arkansas. http://www.governor.arkansas.gov/ (accessed October 3, 2016).

Governors of Arkansas Exhibition. Old State House Museum Online Collections. Governors Exhibition (accessed October 3, 2016).

Staff of the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas

Last Updated: 10/03/2016