Ferguson, James Edward

Ferguson, James Edward,

1871–1944, governor of Texas (1915–17), b. Bell co., Tex. After an adventurous youth he rose from poverty to become a lawyer, large landowner, and banker. Although unknown in state politics, he successfully ran for the governorship in 1914 as the champion of tenant farmers and poor independent farmers. He promised many radical agrarian reforms, some of which became law. He was not, however, favored by the reformers in Texas, because of his demagogic methods and the accusations of widespread corruption in his administration. In 1917, Ferguson was impeached, found guilty on several charges, and removed from office. He devoted himself to clearing his name. He was himself debarred from running for office, but in 1924 his wife, Miriam A. Wallace Ferguson, 1875–1961, ran in his place and was triumphantly elected by the small farmers. A general amnesty was issued to vindicate her husband, but it was declared unconstitutional. Nevertheless in the midst of the depression Ma Ferguson (so called from her initials) once more was elected and served from 1933 to 1935, with a policy of extreme retrenchment. Although his wife held the office, it was Ferguson who wielded the power.
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Ferguson, James Edward

(1871–1944) governor; born near Salado, Texas (husband of “Ma” Fergusonro). Self-educated, he was a laborer and farmer before becoming a lawyer in Temple, Texas, in 1900. Campaigning as a populist, he won two elections as a Democratic governor (1915–17). He opposed prohibition and women's suffrage but worked to improve rural education. Impeached for misusing state funds and forbidden ever to hold public office, he helped his wife become governor and then governed through her.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.