James K. Vardaman, Governor, U.S. Senator

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James Kimble Vardaman

Birthdate: (68)
Birthplace: Johnson County, TX, USA
Death: June 25, 1930 (68)
Birmingham, AL, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of William Sylvester Vardaman and Mary Ann Vardaman
Husband of Anna Elizabeth Vardaman

Managed by: Private User
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About James K. Vardaman, Governor, U.S. Senator


James Kimble Vardaman (July 26, 1861 – June 25, 1930) was an American politician from the state of Mississippi, serving as Governor of Mississippi from 1904 to 1908 and in the U.S. Senate from 1913 to 1919. Vardaman, known as "The Great White Chief", advocated white supremacy. He said "if it is necessary every Negro in the state will be lynched; it will be done to maintain white supremacy."

Early life

Vardaman was born near Edna, Jackson County, Texas and moved in 1868 with his parents to Yalobusha County, Mississippi. He went on to study law and became editor of a newspaper, the Greenwood Commonwealth (still in publication as of 2010).

Political career

As a Democrat, Vardaman served in the Mississippi House of Representatives from 1890 to 1896 and was speaker of that body in 1894. He was a major in the United States Army during the Spanish–American War and saw service in Puerto Rico.

After two failed attempts in 1895 and 1899, Vardaman won the governorship in 1903 and served one four-year term (1904–1908).

By 1910, his political coalition, comprising chiefly poor white farmers and industrial workers, began to describe themselves proudly as "rednecks", even to the point of wearing red neckerchiefs to political rallies and picnics.

Vardaman advocated a policy of racism against African Americans, even to the point of supporting lynching in order to maintain his vision of white supremacy. He was known as the "Great White Chief".

Vardaman was elected to the U.S. Senate and served one term lasting from 1913 until 1919, having been defeated in his reelection bid in 1918. The main factor in his defeat was his opposition to the Declaration of War which had enabled the United States to enter World War I. Vardaman sought to return to the Senate in 1922, but was defeated in the Democratic runoff by Congressman Hubert Stephens by 9,000 votes.

Vardaman was known for his provocative speeches and quotes, once calling Theodore Roosevelt a "little, mean, coon-flavored miscegenationist." After Booker T. Washington had dined with Roosevelt, Vardaman said the White House was "so saturated with the odor of the nigger that the rats have taken refuge in the stable." Vardaman, referring to the appearance of Booker T. Washington in politics, said: "I am just as much opposed to Booker T. Washington as a voter as I am to the coconut-headed, chocolate-colored typical little coon who blacks my shoes every morning."

He died on June 25, 1930 at the Birmingham Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama.

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James K. Vardaman, Governor, U.S. Senator's Timeline

July 26, 1861
Johnson County, TX, USA
June 25, 1930
Age 68
Birmingham, AL, USA