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Texas Matters: Impeach! How Texas Booted A Governor

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Do you remember when in grade school being taught Texas history and there’s one sentence in the text book that says Texas impeached one governor, James Ferguson? And then we learned that years later his wife MA Ferguson was elected governor. And that’s about we students got about this very curious event.

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Well, now the time to fill in the gaps because it was in the summer of 1917 that Farmer Jim Ferguson was impeached and thrown out of office, 100 years ago.

The story of the Fergusons rise and fall and rise again is told in the new book “Impeached – The Removal of Texas Governor James E. Ferguson.” Jessica Brannon-Wranosky is co-editor.

In 1914, Ferguson was elected governor of Texas by running as an anti-prohibitionist Democrat.

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. 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 Texas Senate removed Ferguson as governor and declared him ineligible to hold office under Texas jurisdiction.

Still, Ferguson ran for governor in the 1918 Democratic primary, but he was defeated in the Democratic primary by his successor, William P. Hobby.

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi