5 Notable Governors in Texas History
Texas history has a long and colorful past when it comes to politics. There are a number of characters in Texas government, especially when it comes to the person holding the title of Texas governor. Five different governors in particular stand out in the history of Texas.
James Pinckney Henderson
The stage for Texas politics was set by the first governor of Texas, James Pinckney Henderson, who served from February 1846 until December 1847. Henderson was born March 31st, 1808 in Lincolton, North Carolina. He became a law student at the University of North Carolina, but after becoming a lawyer he joined the North Carolina Militia.
Afterwards, in 1835, Colonel Henderson moved to Canton, Mississippi to open up a law practice. Henderson’s attention quickly turned to the Republic of Texas, where he and several recruited volunteers went to Texas to fight for independence. After this, Henderson was made brigadier general, and recruited soldiers from North Carolina to fight for Texas at his own expense.
Henderson was devoted to the Texas people and government. He worked throughout his life to secure Texas and have it become a state. He worked his way up the chain of command, and in 1846 Henderson was elected the first Governor of Texas. He only held office for a few short months before taking a leave of absence to command a troop of Texas Rangers in the Mexican-American War.
He resumed duties upon his return, but did not seek re-election. He later served in the United States Senate from November 1857 until his death in June 1858.
Sam Houston is arguably one of the most famous figures in historical Texas politics. He served as the 7th Governor of Texas as a Unionist from 1859 – 1861. Houston, who was born near Lexington, Virginia, held many offices. From 1813-1818 Houston was apart of the American infantry, he then studied law and opened a practice in Tennessee. Houston served two terms in congress, 1823 – 1827, and then became the Governor of Tennessee from 1827-1829.
It was around 1835 when Houston moved to Texas. He successfully led the Texas troops into victory in the battle of San Jacinto, and became the president of the Republic of Texas in 1836. After being elected into the Texas congress, a second presidency term, and the United States Senate, Houston became the Governor of Texas in 1859.
He was evicted from his office as the governor of Texas on March 18, 1861 for refusing to take an oath of loyalty to the Confederacy at the outbreak of the American Civil War.
Sam Houston is the only person in American history to be governor of two different states. There are a huge number of schools, roads, towns and cities named after this Texan. Perhaps most notable is the city of Houston in southern Texas.
Miriam Amanda Wallace Ferguson
Miriam Ferguson was the first female governor of Texas during her terms of 1925 – 1927 and 1932 – 1935. Ferguson was born in Bell County, Texas in 1875, and attended Salado college and Baylor college for women at Belton. In 1899 she married James Edward Ferguson, who was also from Bell County, Texas.
She ran for office after her husband, James Ferguson, was impeached, convicted and removed from office. Miriam campaigned as a Democrat, and told voters she would follow the advice of her husband, giving followers of Texas politics “two governors for the price of one”. Miriam wanted to vindicate the Ferguson name, so she promised extensive cuts in state appropriations, condemned the Ku Klux Klan, and opposed new liquor legislation. In 1924 she defeated her Republican opponent, George C. Butte, and became the first female governor of the state of Texas.
Only one other woman has served as a Texas Governor – Ann Richards, who served with distinction as well, rom 1991 – 1995. There are still 24 states that have never had a woman governor, making Ferguson’s double term astounding, especially for the time period.
George W. Bush
No discussion of recent Texas politics is complete without mentioning George W. Bush. He held the office of Governor from 1995 – 2000, and then served as President of the United States from 2001 – 2009.
George W. Bush was born in New Haven, Connecticut. After he graduated from Yale University in 1968, and Harvard Business School in 1975, he married his wife, Laura and unsuccessfully ran for the House of Representatives.
Bush ran for governor and won the election against the incumbent Ann Richards in 1994. Bush successfully sponsored legislation for tort reform, increased standards and funding for schools, and reformed the criminal justice system. Bush, being a popular governor, won the second gubernatorial election with a landside victory.
He is the only Texas governor who went on to become President. George W. Bush followed in his father’s footsteps, as the senior George Bush was President from 1989 – 1993.
Serving as the 47th and current Governor of Texas, Rick Perry was elected Lieutenant Governor in 1998, and took office as the Governor in 2000 when George W. Bush resigned to become President of the United States. Perry was born in 1950 in Paint Creek, Texas, about 60 miles north of Abilene in West Texas. After Perry graduated in 1972 from Texas A&M University, he was commissioned in the U.S. Air Force.
He moved up in Texas politics through the years, from being in the Texas House of Representatives, to being in the gubernatorial seat. He was re-elected in 2002, 2006 and again in 2010 to become the longest continuously serving U.S. Governor currently in office, and the longest in the history of Texas politics. Although some may argue his popularity has waned in recent months since his failed bid for the U.S. Presidency, his longevity is to be noted.
The history of Texas politics is a long and varied one, with 47 different Governors to choose from. Governors Henderson, Houston, Ferguson, Bush and Perry have shown a range of experiences and service that make them stand out from the crowd. Whether or not their political accomplishments are a first for Texas government, these Governors demonstrate certain notes of distinction and service to Texas that make them the most notable Texas Governors, regardless of their party affiliations.