Governors

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Entry Category: Governors

Adkins, Homer Martin

Governor Homer Martin Adkins stands as a symbol of many Arkansans’ ambivalence about the growing power of the federal government in the mid-twentieth century and their resistance to attendant changes in the Democratic Party. Adkins’s clout as a factional leader during the 1930s derived from federal spending in the state, and his successes as governor had everything to do with the U.S. government’s massive investment in military facilities, defense production, and state bonds. But Adkins remained a self-described conservative, always ready to support states’ rights, such as when Democratic administrations in Washington DC and federal courts began to more actively support the civil rights of African Americans. Homer Adkins was born on October 15, 1890, near Jacksonville (Pulaski County), the …

Bailey, Carl Edward

Carl Edward Bailey, a two-term governor of Arkansas in the 1930s, struggled to modernize state government and to cope with the Great Depression. He led a political faction consisting of state employees, which clashed with a coalition of federal workers over control of patronage. This conflict split the Democratic Party as well as the state into opposing political blocs. Carl Bailey was born on October 8, 1894, in Bernie, Missouri, to William Edward Bailey and Margaret Elmyra McCorkle. His father worked as a logger and hardware salesman. Bailey grew up in Campbell, Missouri, where he graduated from high school. He attended Chillicothe Business College in Missouri but lacked the funds to graduate. He held a series of jobs and read …

Baxter, Elisha

Elisha Baxter, a Unionist leader during the Civil War and a jurist, is best remembered as Arkansas’s last Republican governor during Reconstruction. The attempt to overthrow him became known as the Brooks-Baxter War. Baxter’s victory resulted in the end of Reconstruction and the adoption of the Constitution of 1874. Elisha Baxter was born on September 1, 1827, in Rutherford County, North Carolina, to William Baxter and his second wife, Catherine Lee. She was the mother to five sons and three daughters out of William Baxter’s twenty children. His father had emigrated from Ireland in 1789 and prospered in Rutherford County in western North Carolina, acquiring land and slaves. Baxter received a limited education and sought to better himself by obtaining …

Beebe, Mickey Dale (Mike)

A veteran of state government, Mickey Dale (Mike) Beebe was inaugurated as Arkansas’s forty-fifth governor on January 9, 2007. He remained popular with Arkansas’s electorate across his entire eight-year term of service, with support that crossed party lines during a time of polarization in American politics. The steadiness of the Arkansas economy and state finances during the Great Recession, the near total elimination of the state’s sales tax on groceries, and the culmination of the Lake View School District No. 25 v. Huckabee public school lawsuit were the hallmarks of the Beebe governorship, which was often characterized as “pragmatic.” However, Beebe also served as the leader of the state Democratic Party during its historic fall from power. Mike Beebe was …

Berry, James Henderson

James Henderson Berry served as a Civil War officer, lawyer, Arkansas legislator, speaker of the Arkansas house, and circuit judge for the Fourth Judicial District before being elected Arkansas’s fourteenth governor. A staunch Democrat, he was governor for two years and promoted increased taxation for railroads, repudiation of state debt, equal protection for all citizens, reform of the state penal system, and economy in government. Berry followed his stint as governor with twenty-two years of service as a United States senator, from 1885 to 1907. Berry was born in Jackson County, Alabama, on May 15, 1841. His parents, James M. and Isabelle (Orr) Berry, were farmers, and ten of their children lived to adulthood: Granville, Mary, Fannie, Dick, James, Arkansas, …

Brough, Charles Hillman

Charles Hillman Brough was an educator, a promoter, and the state’s twenty-fifth governor. Consistently rated by some historians as among the state’s best governors, he exemplified southern Progressivism in Arkansas. Charles Brough (whose much-mispronounced name rhymes with “rough”) was born July 9, 1876, in Clinton, Mississippi. His father, Milton Brough, was a captain in the Fifteenth Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry in the Civil War. After the war, he engaged in mining and banking, first in the South and then in Utah. While in Mississippi, he met and married Flora Thompson, a schoolteacher, who came from Maine and was living in Utah when his son was born. Brough (known as Hillman in family circles) spent his first six years with his parents …

Bumpers, Dale Leon

Dale Leon Bumpers was one of the state’s most successful politicians in the last half of the twentieth century. As governor, Bumpers initiated the enactment of historic legislation, including a restructuring of the tax system and a reorganization of the state’s government, and as a U.S. senator (1975–1999), he was a fiscally conservative, socially liberal legislator recognized for his oratorical skills. Dale Bumpers was born on August 12, 1925, in Charleston (Franklin County). He was one of four children born to William Rufus and Lattie (Jones) Bumpers. His father worked for the Charleston Hardware and Funeral Home beginning in 1924. In 1937, he and a partner bought the business. Bumpers spent his childhood in Charleston in the lean years of …

Cherry, Francis Adams

Francis Adams Cherry was a chancery judge, Arkansas’s thirty-fifth governor, and chairman of the federal Subversive Activities Control Board. Cherry is most remembered for his political ineptness, which resulted in the election of Orval Faubus as governor in 1954. Francis Cherry was born on September 5, 1908, in Fort Worth, Texas, to Haskille Scott and Clara Belle (Taylor) Cherry. The youngest of five children, he only briefly lived in Fort Worth before his father, a Rock Island Railroad conductor, was transferred. Cherry grew up in El Reno and Enid, Oklahoma, graduating from high school at the latter town. He majored in prelaw at Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Oklahoma State University) from 1926 to 1930. The Great Depression delayed …

Churchill, Thomas James

Thomas James Churchill, the thirteenth governor of Arkansas, led advances in health and education while in office. During his administration, legislation set standards for practicing medicine and established the Medical Department of Arkansas Industrial University (now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences) in Little Rock (Pulaski County). In addition to creating a facility for the mentally ill and a state board of health, his administration appropriated funds for purchasing a building for the branch normal school in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), which served African-American students. Born on March 10, 1824, on his father’s farm near Louisville, Kentucky, Thomas Churchill was one of sixteen children born to Samuel and Abby (Oldham) Churchill. The children grew up on the farm and attended …

Clarke, James Paul

James Paul Clarke, eighteenth governor of Arkansas and a United States senator, became an advocate of the silver monetization crusade associated with the William Jennings Bryan wing of the Democratic Party. He was also a defender of white supremacy as the key doctrine of his party. James Clarke was born in Yazoo County, Mississippi, on August 18, 1854, to Walter Clarke, an architect, and Ellen White, daughter of a prominent planter. After editing a paper in Yazoo City, Clarke received a law degree from the University of Virginia in 1878. In 1879, Clarke moved to Arkansas, settling first at Ozark (Franklin County). Within a year he moved to Helena (Phillips County), where he began a successful law practice. Clarke married …

Clayton, Powell

Powell Clayton, a Union general who settled in Arkansas following the Civil War, played a prominent role as a Republican politician in the Reconstruction that followed that conflict. He became the first governor after the state’s readmission in the Union and pursued social, economic, and political policies typical of Republican regimes elsewhere in the South. He subsequently became an important figure in that party’s national politics until the time of his death. Clayton was born in Bethel Township, Pennsylvania, on August 7, 1833, to John Clayton, a carpenter who kept an orchard, and Ann Clarke Clayton. Clayton attended local public schools and the Partridge Military Academy in Bristol, Pennsylvania. As a young adult, he studied civil engineering in Wilmington, Delaware, …

Clinton, Bill

aka: William Jefferson Clinton
William Jefferson Clinton, a native of Hope (Hempstead County), was the fortieth and forty-second governor of Arkansas and the forty-second president of the United States. Clinton’s tenure as governor of Arkansas, eleven years and eleven months total, was the second longest in the state’s history. Only Orval E. Faubus served longer, with twelve years. Clinton was the second-youngest governor in the state’s history, after John Selden Roane, and the third-youngest person to become president, after Theodore Roosevelt and John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Clinton’s years as governor were marked by extensive efforts to reform the public school system and to spur economic growth. He persuaded lawmakers to enact numerous educational reforms, levy substantial taxes to improve education, and enact an array of …

Conway, Elias Nelson

Elias Nelson Conway—born into an extended kinship group known as “The Family,” which came to dominate the politics of early Arkansas—was elected the fifth governor of the state of Arkansas. He served in that position longer than anyone until Orval Faubus, a century later. His eight years in office were a time of relative prosperity for the growing state as the government dealt with issues such as internal improvements and debt left from failed banks. The mounting tensions that led to the Civil War began to play out during Conway’s second term, and the voters ended the Family’s political domination in the election of 1860 when they rejected Conway’s choice for a successor. Elias Conway was born on May 17, …

Conway, James Sevier

James Sevier Conway was the first governor for the state of Arkansas, elected in 1836 through strong family ties to both prominent Arkansans and President Andrew Jackson’s administration. His tenure as governor was best known for economic issues, surplus funds in the state treasury, legislation creating the state’s first banks, and a national depression, which consumed the surplus and contributed to a collapse in the banking system. James Conway was born on December 4, 1796, in Greene County, Tennessee, the son of Thomas Conway and Anne Rector. Wealthy by frontier standards, the Conway family grew corn and cotton and raised livestock on their Tennessee plantation. Conway’s father employed private tutors to teach his seven sons and three daughters. In 1818, …

Davis, Jeff

Jeff Davis was a populist governor who railed against corporations and often resorted to race baiting in his campaigns. His tenure in office proved extremely divisive, creating for him many enemies. However, Davis dominated Democratic politics in the state in the early years of the twentieth century, being elected to the office of governor three times and going on to become a U.S. senator. Jeff Davis was born on May 6, 1862, near Rocky Comfort (Little River County) to Lewis W. Davis, a Baptist preacher, lawyer, and county judge, and Elizabeth Phillips Scott. Named for the president of the Confederacy, Davis enjoyed a relatively privileged childhood. In 1869, his family moved to Dover (Pope County) and then, in 1873, moved …

Donaghey, George Washington

George Washington Donaghey, the twenty-second governor of Arkansas, built a legacy in the state that endures today through his support of education. He was involved, directly or indirectly, in the beginnings of six of ten publicly supported universities in the state, as well as the creation of a state board of education. Beyond education, his work as governor left behind the initiative and referendum amendment to the Arkansas Constitution, a state board of health with the power to regulate sanitation and inspect food and drugs, prison and tax reform, and the completion of a new state capitol building. George W. Donaghey was born on July 1, 1856, in Oakland, Louisiana, to C. C. Donaghey, a farmer, and Elizabeth Ingram, a …

Drew, Thomas Stevenson

Thomas Stevenson Drew was a peddler, schoolteacher, farmer, railroad speculator, and governor of Arkansas. He was the first person to be elected governor by a plurality instead of a majority and the only governor to resign his office because of personal financial difficulties. Thomas Drew was born in Wilson County, Tennessee, on August 25, 1802. He was the second of ten children born to Newton Drew and Sarah Maxwell Drew. He was raised on a farm and educated in a Tennessee common school. Drew moved to Arkansas in 1817, where he worked as an itinerant peddler and occasionally taught school. In October 1823, he was appointed clerk of the Clark County Court and, three months later, became justice of the peace of …

Eagle, James Philip

James Philip Eagle served as governor during one of the most turbulent times in Arkansas’s history. Elected under a cloud of election fraud and faced with a divided Democratic Party, he presided over a General Assembly bent on enacting a series of “Jim Crow” laws to segregate Arkansas society along racial lines. By the time Eagle left office, the dominance of the Democratic Party had been restored, but Arkansans were more racially divided than at any time since the days of slavery. James Eagle was born on August 10, 1837, in Maury County, Tennessee, the son of James and Charity Swaim Eagle. The family, of German descent, immigrated to the United States from Switzerland. In November 1839, Eagle’s father, a …

Faubus, Orval Eugene

Orval Eugene Faubus served six consecutive terms as governor of Arkansas, holding the office longer than any other person. His record was in many ways progressive, but he is most widely remembered for his attempt to block the desegregation of Little Rock’s Central High School in 1957. His stand against what he called “forced integration” resulted in President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s sending federal troops to Little Rock (Pulaski County) to enforce the 1954 desegregation ruling of the Supreme Court. Orval Faubus was born on January 7, 1910, in a rented log cabin on Greasy Creek in southern Madison County in the Ozark Mountains. His parents were John Samuel and Addie Joslin Faubus. Sam Faubus, a self-educated farmer, became a fervent …

Fishback, William Meade

William Meade Fishback was a prominent Unionist during the Civil War who became the seventeenth governor of Arkansas. He was elected (but not seated) as U.S. senator by the Unionist government in 1864. During Reconstruction, he became a Democrat and, in the mid-1870s and early 1880s, championed repudiation of state debts. The Fishback Amendment earned him the name the “Great Repudiator.” His relatively lackluster one term as governor was most notable for his public relations effort to improve Arkansas’s image. William Fishback was born on November 5, 1831, in the Jeffersonton community of Culpeper County, Virginia, the oldest of the nine children born to Frederick Fishback and Sophia Ann (Yates) Fishback. As the son of a prosperous farmer, he received …

Flanagin, Harris

Harris Flanagin, the seventh governor of Arkansas, had his four-year term cut short when he surrendered Arkansas’s Confederate government following the surrender of the Trans-Mississippi Department at the end of the Civil War. After the fall of Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1863, he reconvened the Confederate state government in Washington (Hempstead County), thus becoming Arkansas’s only governor to head a government in exile. Harris Flanagin was born on November 3, 1817, in Roadstown, New Jersey, to James Flanagin, a cabinetmaker and merchant who had emigrated from Ireland in 1765, and Mary Harris. No records indicate his middle name, and little is known about his early life. Flanagin was educated in a Society of Friends (Quaker) school and became a …

Fulton, William Savin

William Savin Fulton was appointed Arkansas’s last territorial governor by President Andrew Jackson in 1835 and served as Arkansas’s first junior senator after statehood in 1836 until his death on August 15, 1844. He is most often associated with the Democratic Party, and when serving as governor, he surrounded himself with controversy by opposing immediate statehood for Arkansas. William Fulton was born in Cecil County, Maryland, on June 2, 1795. His parents were Irish-born David and Maryland native Elizabeth Fulton. Owing to his mother’s wealth, Fulton was provided with a formal education under Reverend Samuel Knox in 1803, and he attended Baltimore College in 1813 before practicing law in 1817. Between his education and law career, Fulton served as a …

Futrell, Junius Marion

aka: J. Marion Futrell
Junius Marion Futrell, the thirtieth governor and a circuit and chancery judge, had the misfortune to be governor during the Great Depression. Hamstrung by the state’s financial predicament and by his philosophy of limited government, Futrell has not ranked high in the estimation of historians. Born on August 14, 1870, to Jepthra Futrell and Arminia Levonica Eubanks Futrell in the Jones Ridge community (Greene County), J. Marion Futrell was the second of three children. His father, a Confederate veteran, had migrated from Kentucky in 1843; his mother was a Georgia native. After minimal public schooling, J. Marion Futrell (apparently, he preferred to drop the Junius, and one public record even rendered the “J” as James) received an appointment to attend …

Garland, Augustus Hill

Augustus Hill Garland was the eleventh governor of Arkansas, a member of the Confederate Congress, a U.S. senator, and attorney general of the United States. As governor of Arkansas, Garland worked to get the state out of a tremendous debt and improve the state’s image. As the subject of the U.S. Supreme Court case Ex parte Garland, Garland is also a part of legal history, and Garland County is named for him. Augustus Garland was born on June 11, 1832, in Covington, Tennessee, to Rufus Garland and Barbara Hill Garland. He had an older brother, Rufus, and an older sister, Elizabeth. Garland’s father moved the family to Lost Prairie (Miller County), where he owned a store. He died when Garland …

Governor, Office of the

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. …

Hadley, Ozro Amander

Ozro Amander Hadley served as acting governor of Arkansas from 1871, when Powell Clayton resigned, until 1873. His two years in office saw a continuation of Clayton’s policies but without the extreme violence that had marked his predecessor’s years. Hadley played several other roles of note both before and after his term in office O. A. Hadley was born on June 26, 1826, at Cherry Creek in Chautauqua County, New York, to Alvah Hadley and Eunice Bates Hadley. His father was a farmer. Hadley was educated in local public schools and at the Fredonia Academy. On February 17, 1849, he married Mary C. Kilbourn; they had two daughters, as well as one child who died in infancy. The ill heath …

Hays, George Washington

George Washington Hays was a key figure in deciding issues on prohibition and women’s rights. He served as governor during an era of significant interest in progressive reforms, but he did not unreservedly align himself with the reformers. George Hays was born at Camden (Ouachita County) on September 23, 1863, to Thomas Hays, a farmer, and Parthenia Jane Ross. Hays himself farmed until he was twenty-five years old, worked as a store clerk for six years, and taught school for three months. After receiving a legal education at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, and studying with the firm of Gaughan and Sifford in Camden, Hays began his own law practice in his hometown in 1897. On February 20, …

Huckabee, Mike

aka: Michael Dale Huckabee
Michael Dale Huckabee served as the forty-fourth governor of Arkansas. His personal visibility helped him to become the first Republican governor elected to two four-year terms in Arkansas, but he did little to promote the growth of a more expanded two-party system in Arkansas. His policy legacies may well be in the areas of education, environment, and health. Mike Huckabee was born on August 24, 1955, in Hope (Hempstead County), the son of Dorsey W. and Mae (Elder) Huckabee. Huckabee’s father worked as a firefighter, and his mother was employed by the Louisiana Transit Company. In 1965, he joined Garrett Memorial Baptist Church and became involved in church activities. His faith continued to play a significant role in his private …

Hughes, Simon Pollard

Simon Pollard Hughes typifies the ex-Confederate, personally prosperous, conservative post-Reconstruction Democratic governors of Arkansas as well as several other Southern states. As attorney general and as a two-term governor, he stressed the need for the state to have a good credit rating. Though his political career began in the 1850s, his longest public service was as an associate justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court for sixteen years. Simon P. Hughes was born on April 14, 1830, near Carthage, Smith County, Tennessee, the third son of Simon P. Hughes and Mary Hubbard. When Hughes’s mother died in 1842, the family moved to Bowie County, Texas, but his father died in 1844, leaving the fourteen-year-old Hughes an orphan. (There is no concrete …

Hutchinson, Asa

aka: William Asa Hutchinson
William Asa Hutchinson first gained national attention as the youngest district attorney in the nation in 1982. He went on to represent the Third District of Arkansas in Congress as a Republican from 1997 to 2001, resigning his post on August 6, 2001, to become the director of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Hutchinson left the DEA to become the Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security at the Department of Homeland Security, a post he held from 2003 to 2005. In 2005, Hutchinson began actively campaigning for the governorship of Arkansas but lost the race to Mike Beebe in November 2006. However, he was elected governor eight years later in 2014 and reelected in 2018. Asa Hutchinson was born on …

Izard, George

George Izard, scholar, soldier, and army major general, served as Arkansas’s second territorial governor from March 4, 1825, until his death on November 22, 1828. Finding government in Arkansas disorganized and ineffective, Izard began the task of organizing territorial government into a more effective and efficient institution. Izard County is named for him. George Izard was born on October 21, 1776, to Ralph Izard and Alice DeLancey Izard near London, England. His father, a native of South Carolina, transacted personal and diplomatic business in Europe and later served as a delegate to the Continental Congress and as U.S. senator from South Carolina. Izard’s mother was of a prominent colonial New York family. Izard had eight sisters and four brothers. Because …

Jones, Daniel Webster

Daniel Webster Jones was the last Civil War veteran to serve as governor of Arkansas. He was a member of the old, aristocratic, land-owning class in the South. Most of the Arkansas governors of his genteel social rank had stood loyally by the interests of the wealthier landowners and businessmen, but Jones, as governor, tended to give more attention to the interests of the poorer farming class. Those who wanted still more radical reform in the interests of the lower classes had formed the Populist Party in the early 1890s. This new party threatened the dominance of the one-party system, and thus white supremacy. To stave off the movement of voters away from the Democratic Party, Jones cautiously moved toward …

Laney, Benjamin Travis, Jr.

Benjamin Travis Laney Jr. served two terms as governor of Arkansas. His most notable achievement was the state’s 1945 Revenue Stabilization Law, which prohibited deficit spending. Though he once said, “I am not a politician,” his conservative views put him in the spotlight at a time when the Democratic Party was becoming more liberal. Although he opposed desegregation, the University of Arkansas School of Law became the South’s first all-white public institution to admit black students during his tenure. Ben Laney was born on November 25, 1896, in Jones Chapel (Ouachita County), the son of Benjamin Travis Laney and Martha Ellen Saxon. He was one of eleven children, and his father was a farmer. He entered Hendrix College in Conway …

Little, John Sebastian

John Sebastian Little was active in Arkansas Democratic Party politics for thirty years, holding the positions of prosecuting attorney, judge, congressman, and finally being elected governor in 1906. Persistent health problems ended his gubernatorial term very early, prompting accelerated efforts to provide the state with an elected lieutenant governor. Born in Jenny Lind (Sebastian County), on March 15, 1851, Little was reputedly the first male child born in the newly created Sebastian County. Known was “Bass” Little, he was the son of Jesse and Elizabeth Tatum Little, pioneer settlers in western Arkansas. He grew up on the family’s farm and attended local schools. In 1871–72, he spent a single term at Cane Hill College in Washington County. For the next …