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Texas Matters: When Texas Impeached; The Real Chicken Ranch Remembered


Do you remember learning about Texas history in grade school, and reading one sentence in the text books stating Texas impeached Governor James Ferguson? Then we learned his wife MA Ferguson was elected governor years later — and that’s all we got about this very curious event.

Well, now it's time to fill in the gaps. 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.

The Real Chicken Ranch

"The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" opened on Broadway in 1978 and was a hit musical comedy, winning two Tony Awards. In 1982 it was turned into a film with Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton. The play and the film told the story about the Chicken Ranch – a brothel – which was a Texas institution.

But where does the movie end and reality begin? The book “Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch” exposes how the chicken ranch began and how it stayed open – and how it was finally closed.

Jayme Lynn Blaschke is the author of “Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch – The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse.”

It’s published by The History Press.

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