Of the three US presidents indicted – Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump – none has ever been convicted or removed from office. But when it comes to governors, the story of impeachment is quite different.
There have been 15 governors in the history of the United States who have been impeached, that is, brought to a legislative trial, including two governors who have been impeached twice. Of these 15, eight governors were convicted and left their positions either by dismissal or by their own resignation.
1. 1871: William Holden, North Carolina
The first two US governors to be impeached were Charles Robinson of Kansas in 1862 and Harrison Reed of Florida in 1868. However, the first to be impeached, convicted and removed from office was William Holden, who served as governor of North Carolina in 1865 and again from 1868 to 1871.
Holden was a Republican governor during Reconstruction, a period in which black Americans and Republican governments were often under attack. During Holden’s second term, North Carolina white supremacists murdered a sheriff, justice of the peace, and state senator, and a large mob lynched a local black official named Wyatt Outlaw.
Holden responded to this violence by invoking martial law. Under his orders, state troops arrested more than 100 members of the Ku Klux Klan to stand trial. This outraged the Democratic-led General Assembly, which brought articles of impeachment against him in 1870. In 1871, the state legislature found him guilty of illegally using military force and violating human rights. Klan men arrested, and removed him from his post.
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2. 1871: David Butler, Nebraska
In the same year that North Carolina removed Holden from office, two other governors were removed: Arkansas Governor Powell Clayton, whose charges were dropped; and Nebraska Governor David Butler, who was convicted and removed from office.
Butler was the first governor of Nebraska, having been elected in 1867, the year Nebraska joined the Union. In 1871, the state legislature impeached and impeached the Republican governor for stealing thousands of public funds for himself. However, the impeachment was overturned several years later and Butler became a state senate in 1882 and even attempted to run for governor again in 1888 (he was unsuccessful).
3. 1913: William ‘Plain Bill’ Sulzer, New York
There were at least four other governorships during Reconstruction, including Henry Warmoth and William Pitt Kellogg of Louisiana, Harrison Reed of Florida (again) and Adelbert Ames of Mississippi. None of these attempts resulted in convictions, and after Reconstruction was completed, there was no further impeachment of a governor until William “Plain Bill” Sulzer in 1913.
Sulzer was a Democratic governor of New York. The state legislature indicted and sentenced him after less than a year in office for reporting false information about his campaign spending. Sulzer resigned on September 24, 1913, but the trial continued and he was convicted on October 16.
4. 1917: James ‘Pa’ Ferguson Jr., Texas
Democrat James “Pa” Ferguson Jr. became governor of Texas in 1913, and his impeachment stems from his feud with the University of Texas. There were some faculty members Ferguson wanted the board of regents to sack, and when the board failed to do so, he vetoed nearly all state appropriations of the university.
The Texas legislature impeached, convicted, and fired Ferguson in 1917, preventing him from re-holding elected office in Texas. Despite this, Ferguson attempted (and failed) to run for governor again the following year, and submitted two more unsuccessful candidatures for the presidency and the US Senate in the following years. However, he became the “first gentleman” of Texas in 1925 when his wife, Democrat Miriam “Ma” Ferguson, became the first female governor of Texas. She served her first term until 1927, and was governor a second time from 1933 to 1935.
5. 1923: John Walton, Oklahoma
In 1921, the white residents of Tulsa slaughtered the black residents and destroyed the part of town known as “Black Wall Street”. Two years later, when Democrat John Walton became governor of Oklahoma, he imposed martial law on Tulsa in order to crack down on the Ku Klux Klan.
In response, the state legislature filed 22 articles of impeachment against Walton, including charges of illegal use of the military and suspension of habeas corpus. The legislature found him guilty of several charges, removing him after less than a year in office.
READ MORE: Tulsa Race Massacre: Facts About The Attack
6. 1929: Henry S. Johnston, Oklahoma
Several years later, Oklahoma twice removed another governor for general incompetence. One of the reasons Democrat Henry S. Johnston’s first impeachment was allegations that his personal secretary, Ms OO Hammonds, had too much influence over his decisions. After the 1928 election, fellow Democrats also blamed Johnston for their party’s losses in the state.
Johnston, who took office in 1927, survived the first impeachment but was convicted and removed on the second impeachment, stepping down in 1929. In addition to Florida Governor Harrison Reed, who was impeached in 1868 and 1872 (and acquitted both times), Johnston is the only other US governor to be impeached twice.
7. 1988: Evan Mecham, Arizona
The same year that Oklahoma impeached Henry Johnston, Louisiana also impeached Governor Huey Long, “The Kingfish,” who was acquitted and remained in office. After that, there was no further impeachment of governor for almost 60 years.
The man who broke the streak was Republican Evan Mecham, Arizona governor from 1987 to 1988. He was impeached for financial crimes, as well as for trying to cover up a threat made by one of its members to a member of the grand jury in a case. about his financial crimes. In 1988, the state legislature condemned him and removed him from office.
8. 2009: Rod Blagojevich, Illinois
The most recently impeached governor was Democrat Rod Blagojevich, governor of Illinois from 2003 to 2009. Blagojevich was impeached on corruption charges, including his attempt to sell Barack Obama’s seat in the United States Senate after the Obama’s election as president in 2008.
The Illinois legislature removed Blagojevich from office in 2009, and he served almost eight years of a 14-year prison sentence. He was released from prison in 2020 after Donald Trump commuted his sentence.
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