James E. Ferguson

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James Edward Ferguson, Jr.
James E. Ferguson.jpg
26th Governor of Texas
In office
January 19, 1915 – August 25, 1917
Lieutenant William P. Hobby
Preceded by Oscar Branch Colquitt
Succeeded by William P. Hobby
Personal details
Born August 31, 1871
Salado, Bell County
Texas, USA
Died September 21, 1944 (aged 73)
Resting place Texas State Cemetery in Austin
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Miriam A. Ferguson

James Edward Ferguson, Jr., known as Pa Ferguson (August 31, 1871 – September 21, 1944), was an American Democratic politician and the 26th Governor of Texas, in office from 1915 to 1917. Later, he was the first gentleman of Texas for two nonconsecutive terms.

Early life

Ferguson was born to the Reverend James Ferguson, Sr., and Fannie Ferguson near Salado in south Bell County, Texas. He entered Salado College at age twelve but was eventually expelled for disobedience. At the age of sixteen, he left home and drifted through the states of the American West, having been employed in a vineyard, a mine, a barbed wire factory, and a grain ranch. After he returned to Texas, he studied law in Bell County and was admitted to the bar.[1] On December 31, 1899, he married Miriam A. "Ma" Wallace at the Wallace family home.[2] In 1903, he became the city attorney in Belton and established Farmers State Bank. In 1906, he sold Farmers bank and established Temple State Bank.[1] He also managed several local political campaigns.

Governor of Texas

In 1914, Ferguson was elected Governor of Texas running as an anti-prohibitionist Democrat. He served in this position from January 19, 1915 to August 25, 1917.

After being re-elected in 1916, Ferguson vetoed the appropriations for the University of Texas. The veto was retaliation against the university because of its refusal to dismiss certain faculty members whom Ferguson found objectionable, including former Texas Lieutenant Governor and founder and dean of the University of Texas School of Journalism, William Harding Mayes, who had been an opponent of Ferguson for the Democratic party's nomination for governor in 1914.[3] The accusations against Mayes were that he used his ownership of newspapers, including the Brownwood Bulletin, to spread negative information about Ferguson.[3] Another leading Ferguson critic on the UT campus was the historian Eugene C. Barker.

This move spurred the drive to impeach Ferguson. The chairman of the investigating committee, William H. Bledsoe of Lubbock, called for impeachment while sitting next to Ferguson.[4] Ferguson was indicted on nine charges in July 1917. The Texas House of Representatives prepared 21 charges against Ferguson and the Senate convicted him on 10 of those charges, including misapplication of public funds and receiving $156,000 from an unnamed source.[5] The Texas Senate, many of whom had served under William Harding Mayes and with whom Mayes maintained cordial relationships,[6] removed Ferguson as governor and declared him ineligible to hold office under Texas jurisdiction. Despite this ruling, Ferguson ran for governor in the 1918 Democratic primary, but he was defeated in the Democratic primary by his successor, William P. Hobby of Houston, previously the lieutenant governor. And on March 24, 1915, Ferguson finally signed the textbook law in Texas. Simplifying the laws to accommodate the common man.[7]

Presidential candidate

Ferguson also ran for President of the United States in the 1920 election as the candidate of the American Party. Ferguson was on the ballot only in Texas, where he received 47,968 votes (9.86 percent of the vote in Texas, 0.18 percent of the vote nationwide). The 1920 presidential election was won by Republican candidate Warren Harding although Democratic nominee James M. Cox won in Texas.

Ferguson was also surpassed by three other unsuccessful candidates:

Senate bid and First Gentleman of Texas

Ferguson failed at his bid for the United States Senate in 1922, having lost in the Democratic runoff election to Earle B. Mayfield. In 1924, Ferguson entered his wife Miriam in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. She won, and with Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming, became one of the first two women governors in the United States, both having followed husbands who had served earlier. While Nellie Tayloe Ross was sworn in two week prior to Miriam Ferguson, she was not elected, therefore Miriam Ferguson was the first woman elected governor in the United States. She served two nonconsecutive two year terms as governor: January 20, 1925 - January 17, 1927, and January 17, 1933 - January 15, 1935.

In 1935, the Fergusons lost their ranch in Bell County because of financial troubles. Nine years later Ferguson died of a stroke. He is interred next to his wife at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Brochure, "Meet the Fergusons: Two Governors for the Price of One", Bell County Museum, Belton, Texas
  2. TSHA Online - Texas State Historical Association - Home at www.tshaonline.org
  3. 3.0 3.1 Texas Legislative Commission
  4. David Sifford (September 9, 2003). "William Harrison Bledsoe". findagrave.com. Retrieved July 30, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "FERGUSON, JAMES EDWARD". The Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 2012-03-31.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Texas State Senate Journal
  7. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85042303/1915-03-24/ed-1/seq-1/
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Myrtle Mainer Neff
First Gentleman of Texas
Succeeded by
Mildred Paxton Moody
Preceded by
Maud Gage Sterling
First Gentleman of Texas
Succeeded by
Joe Betsy Miller