Impeached: The Removal of Texas Governor James E. Ferguson

Impeached: The Removal of Texas Governor James E. Ferguson

Impeached: The Removal of Texas Governor James E. Ferguson

Impeached: The Removal of Texas Governor James E. Ferguson


In 1917, barely into his second term as governor of Texas, James E. Ferguson was impeached, convicted, and removed from office. Impeached provides a new examination of the rise and fall of Ferguson’s political fortunes, offering a focused look at how battles over economic class, academic freedom, women’s enfranchisement, and concentrated political power came to be directed toward one politician.

Jessica Brannon-Wranosky and Bruce A. Glasrud have brought together top scholars to shine a light on this unique chapter in Texas history. An overview by John R. Lundberg offers a comprehensive survey of the impeachment process. Kay Reed Arnold then follows the Ferguson story into the halls of academia at the University of Texas—which Ferguson threatened to close—sparking a fierce response by faculty, alumni, students, and, especially, the Women’s Committee for Good Government. Rachel M. Gunter further places the Ferguson impeachment in the context of the suffrage movement. Leah LaGrone Ochoa then explores Ferguson’s hot-and-cold relationship with the Texas press, and Mark Stanley examines the impact of the impeachment on Texas politics in the decades that followed. Jessica Brannon-Wranosky concludes with an assessment of the historical memory of Ferguson's impeachment throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Impeached: The Removal of Texas Governor James E. Ferguson reveals how power ebbed and flowed in twentieth-century Texas and includes several annotated primary documents critical to understanding the Ferguson impeachment.


Jessica Brannon-Wranosky and Bruce A. Glasrud

In late 1913, a virtually unknown businessman from Temple, Texas, entered the Democratic primary for the position of governor of the Lone Star State. James E. Ferguson, soon to be referred to as “Farmer Jim” and later as “Pa,” appeared to be a long shot, but he readily won the Democratic primary and then the general election and took office as governor in 1915. Charming, charismatic, persuasive, and a moderately successful lawyer, businessman, and bank president, Ferguson won the election by opposing any type of liquor or prohibition legislation, campaigning as a successful businessman, appealing to the downtrodden and previously ignored tenant farmers of the state, claiming an affinity with organized labor, and favoring aid to education. He also opposed woman suffrage; of course, that was before Texas women could vote.

A convincing campaigner, Ferguson carefully addressed his speeches and his character to the less well-educated majority of Texas voters, the small farmers of the state. That focus worked and continued to do so for a second term. Ferguson, with a little more difficulty, won reelection in 1916 and began his second term in 1917, after which his political fortunes plummeted. in that same year he was impeached by forces led by the alumni, faculty, and administrators of the University of Texas, clubwomen, woman suffragists, prohibitionists, the Texas press, and other groups united by their antipathy for his sometimes unjust, demagogic, and even unconstitutional actions. Ferguson was convicted and not only removed from the governor’s office but also barred from holding any office in Texas in the future. He thus became the only governor of Texas to be impeached.

What precipitated Ferguson’s fall? Essentially, “Farmer Jim” Ferguson, although no worse than a few other Texas governors, offended the wrong . . .

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