- Impeached: The Removal of Texas Governor James E. Ferguson ed. by Jessica Brannon-Wranosky and Bruce A. Glasrud
Forty-six men and two women have served as governor of Texas since it gained statehood in 1845. Just one governor has been impeached. In fact, only eight governors have been impeached in United States history. The authors of Impeached: The Removal of Texas Governor James E. Ferguson have an interesting story to tell.
"Farmer Jim" Ferguson was elected a Democrat who opposed prohibition in 1914 as the 26th governor of Texas. He was elected to a second two-year term in 1916 only to gain lasting infamy in Lone Star history when he was impeached and removed from office in 1917. Six individual chapters and an introduction skillfully explore the reasons for the impeachment, the major players involved, and this event's broader significance in Texas history. Because it is an edited book with multiple authors, similar themes appear in several of the chapters. [End Page 42] We learn, for example, that the governor's conflict with the University of Texas at Austin was one of the precipitating factors.
The media had a crucial role in the impeachment struggle. It's interesting to see how state newspapers interpreted the conflict for the state's five million people. Leah Ochoa describes how regional newspapers like the San Marcos Times (122) accused Ferguson of trying to "destroy" the University of Texas. The press, in combination with women suffragists and prohibitionists, were able to turn legislative and much public sentiment against the governor. Mark Stanley's chapter on the fracturing of the Democratic Party of Texas also offers many insights. Every governor elected between 1874 and 1978 was a Democrat. Stanley argues that the battle over impeachment is an early augury of the coming fracture of the party and the eventual rise of the Republican Party. Progressive "dry" Democrats faced off against conservative "wet" Democrats in the Ferguson controversy.
The authors might have made an even greater contribution in two ways. First, what does this event imply about the power of state institutions like the speaker of the Texas House of Representatives? Patrick Cox and Michael Phillips's House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics (2010) would serve as a useful resource. Did Speaker Francis Fuller's involvement herald an enduring change in the role of the speaker of the Texas House of Representatives? Similarly, the authors might benefit from using the insights of Brian McCall's The Power of the Texas Governor. Did the assertion of the legislature have lasting implications for the power of Texas governors? Second, the authors might discuss the regional battles over populism in more detail. As Lawrence Goodwyn's The Populist Moment emphasizes, Texas was a leader in populism. Lundbergh describes the conflict between the brewers who supported Ferguson and the suff ragists and prohibitionists who opposed him. The Great Plains was a center of populist mobilization. Banks and railroads were the targets of much of their anger. In what sense is Governor Ferguson a "populist"? Would other populists of the region consider him a kindred spirit? Does the 1917 political scene in Texas reflect its heritage as a Great Plains state or as a part of the South as described by V. O. Key (1949)?