James E. "Pa" Ferguson, Governor

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James Edward Ferguson, Jr.

Birthplace: Salado, Bell, Texas, United States
Death: Died in Austin, Travis, Texas, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of James Eldridge Ferguson and Fannie Phillips Fitzpatrick
Husband of Miriam A. "Ma" Ferguson, Governor
Brother of Alvah Fitzpatrick Ferguson

Managed by: Private User
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About James E. "Pa" Ferguson, Governor


James Edward "Pa" Ferguson, Jr. (August 31, 1871 – September 21, 1944), was a Democratic politician and the 26th governor from the state of Texas.

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 was admitted to the bar. On December 31, 1899, he married Miriam A. "Ma" Wallace at the Wallace family home. 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. 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. This move spurred the drive to impeach Ferguson. A leading Ferguson critic on the UT campus was historian Eugene C. Barker. 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. The Senate removed him from the office of Governor and declared him ineligible to hold office under Texas jurisdiction. Despite this ruling, Ferguson ran for governor in 1918, but he was defeated in the Democratic primary by William P. Hobby of Houston, previously the lieutenant governor.

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 in only 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:

Eugene Victor Debs of the Socialist Party of America.
Parley Parker Christensen of the United States Farmer-Labor Party.
Aaron Sherman Watkins of the United States Prohibition Party.

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 elected governors in the United States, both having followed husbands who had served earlier. Miriam Ferguson 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.

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James E. "Pa" Ferguson, Governor's Timeline

August 31, 1871
Salado, Bell, Texas, United States
September 21, 1944
Age 73
Austin, Travis, Texas, United States