William Fishback, Governor

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About William Fishback, Governor


William Meade Fishback (November 5, 1831 – February 9, 1903) was the 17th Governor of Arkansas and U.S. Senator-Elect for Arkansas.


Fishback was born in Jeffersonton, Virginia, in Culpeper County, Virginia. He graduated with a law degree from the University of Virginia in 1855. He moved to Illinois where he was admitted to the bar in 1857.


In 1858, Fishback moved to Greenwood, Arkansas. In 1861, he was elected to the Arkansas Secession Convention as a pro-Union delegate. Fishback established a pro-Union newspaper called The Unconditional Union in 1863. In December 1863, he represented 17 year-old David Owen Dodd, who was convicted of spying. During the American Civil War, he raised 900 troops for the 4th Arkansas Cavalry Regiment (USA) and served as Colonel.

He was selected to represent Arkansas in the United States Senate in 1864, but was not allowed to take his seat, as Arkansas had not yet been readmitted to the Union.

Fishback was a delegate to the 1874 Arkansas Constitutional Convention. He served as a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives from 1871 to 1881. Fishback introduced what came to be known as the "Fishback Amendment", now known as Amendment 1 (codified as Article 20) of the Arkansas Constitution. This amendment prohibited the state authorities from paying the Holford railroad aid and levee bonds. Failure to pay the Holford debt created credit problems for the state that lasted well into the 20th century.

On September 5, 1892, Fishback was elected Governor of Arkansas. Fishback's administration focused on changing the national image of the state. During his term, the St. Francis River levee district was formed.

Fisbhack served as governor until 1895 when he left public office and worked attempting to attract business to the state.


Fishback died of a stroke. Fishback is buried at Oak Cemetery in Fort Smith, Arkansas.[3]


While Governor, Fishback declared:

"Houses of ill-fame are necessary to city life, if you close these sewers of men's animal passions you overflow the home and spread disaster."[4]

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William Fishback, Governor's Timeline

November 5, 1831
Culpeper County, Virginia
Age 37
Age 46
February 9, 1903
Age 71
Fort Smith, Arkansas