Henry C. Warmoth
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|Henry C. Warmoth|
|23rd Governor of Louisiana|
|Lieutenant||(1) Oscar Dunn
(2) P. B. S. Pinchback
|Preceded by||Joshua Baker|
|Succeeded by||P. B. S. Pinchback|
May 9, 1842|
|Died||September 30, 1931
New Orleans, Louisiana
Henry Clay Warmoth (1842–1931) was the 23rd Governor of Louisiana from 1868 until his impeachment and suspension from office during the final days of his term in 1872. His Lt. Governor, P.B.S. Pinchback, assumed office during Warmoth's absence, becoming the first African American Governor in the United States. Warmoth was the first elected Reconstruction Governor of Louisiana and later served one term as an elected Louisiana State Representative from 1876-78 
Early life and military career
His early education was attained in the public school system of Illinois. He studied law, was admitted to the Missouri bar in 1861, and then established his legal career, serving as the district attorney of the Eighteenth Judicial District. During the Civil War, Warmoth served as Lieutenant Colonel of the 32nd Missouri Infantry. He was at the capture of Arkansas Post and was wounded in the Battle of Vicksburg. He was dishonorably discharged for alleged exaggerations of Union losses. After a personal appeal to the Commander-in-Chief, President Abraham Lincoln reinstated Warmoth's military status. After reinstatement, he was reunited with his regiment and commanded at Lookout Mountain, reinforced General Nathaniel Banks at the Red Cedar retreat and later commissioned as judge of the Department of the Gulf Provost Court. In early 1865, Warmoth resigned from the military to resume a legal practice, and later ran for Congress.
Arriving in Union-occupied New Orleans, penniless but resourceful, Warmoth focused on the newly freed black men, easily convincing them that he was the man to represent them in government. He entered private law practice in New Orleans, ran for Congress as a Republican and was elected. After the assassination of President Lincoln, none of the southern elected Representatives were seated by the Radical Republican majority; Warmoth returned to New Orleans.
In 1868, General Winfield Scott Hancock was removed as Military Commander of the 5th Military District (encompassing Texas and Louisiana) and his hand-picked Governor, Joshua Baker, resigned. This paved the way for a special election in April, 1868. Warmoth decided to run for Governor as a Republican and after being selected as the nominee over Major Francis E. Dumas, he narrowly defeated Louisiana Supreme Court Justice James G. Taliaferro, who ran as a Democrat. Warmoth was sworn into office on July 13, 1868. Elected at twenty-six, Warmoth was one of the youngest governors in United States history. Stevens T. Mason, first governor of Michigan, was the youngest state governor, elected at age 24.
Also elected with Warmoth was Oscar Dunn as Lieutenant Governor, who was an African-American painter. When Dunn died in office, he was succeeded by P.B.S. Pinchback, who was President of the State Senate.
In the 1868 presidential election, Democrat Horatio Seymour carried Louisiana, but Ulysses Grant was elected President. As a result of electoral anomalies in that election, Warmoth created the State Returning Board. All election returns were reported to the State Returning Board for validity and approval.
Warmoth's 1868 inaugural address offered a glimpse into the Governor's planned moderation in civil rights policy. The speech, offering rhetoric supporting the U.S. Constitution's 13th and 14th amendments, pledged "equality before the law and the enjoyment of every political right of all the citizens of the state, regardless of race, color, or previous condition." At the same time, his message advocated caution, urging that civil rights legislation enjoy popular support, as well as legislative support: "only when this grand distinctive feature of the new constitution shall be stamped on every act of legislation, and when such legislation shall find approval and support in that general public sentiment which gives to law its vitality, will our State fairly enter upon that career of greatness and prosperity which the almighty designed for her."
Warmoth's support of some civil rights legislation, including election reform, earned him initial favor with African American voters and Radical Republicans. However, his implementation of more moderate policy on civil rights legislation in the area of public accommodations earned him scorn from these constituencies. In 1868, the Louisiana House and Senate passed legislation to require penalties for owners of public places and vehicles who failed to provide equal service to Negroes and Whites. Warmoth vetoed this bill, declaring that it would be too onerous to enforce and would lead to further deterioration of race relations. The veto of this legislation was a crucial step along the path toward erosion of his political base. Historian Francis Byers Harris surmised that, "Negroes had their hearts set on this law, and Warmoth sowed a seed of distrust which grew into enmity for the man they had helped elect."  Additional political turmoil developed when Warmoth aggressively endorsed the Democratic ticket of John McEnery in the 1872 election. The election results were contested, and ultimately President Grant ensured that William P. Kellogg took office. Impeachment charges were brought against Warmoth by his Republican allies for his actions during the 1872 election. Thirty-five days before the end of his term, he was suspended from office as called for by Louisiana law at the time for impeached officials pending the outcome of a senate trial, which led to the swearing-in of P.B.S. Pinchback as the first black Governor in the United States. An impeachment trial was not held.
After the governorship
In 1877, Warmoth married heiress Sally Durand of Newark, New Jersey. They had two sons and a daughter and resided at Magnolia Plantation in Plaquemines Parish. Warmoth helped establish a sugar refinery and led a campaign for a higher tariff to protect the sugar industry. After the tariff passed, Warmoth sold his plantation.
In 1888, Warmoth ran for and lost a race for Governor to Francis T. Nicholls. He was appointed Collector of Customs in New Orleans by President Benjamin Harrison in 1890 while Warmoth was living in the St. Charles Hotel.
Warmoth died in New Orleans at age 89.
Henry Warmoth in popular culture
Henry Warmoth is the pseudonym of a New Orleans service industry writer and Quarter Rat columnist.
- Conrad, Glenn R. (1988). A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography, Vol. II. The Louisiana Historical Association. pp. 825–26.
- Conrad, Glenn R. (1988). A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography, Vol. II. Louisiana Historical Association. p. 826.
- Inaugural Address of Governor H.C. Warmoth. New Orleans: Republican Office, 57 S. Charles Street. 13 July 1868. p. 4.
- Harris, Francis Byers (1947). "Henry Clay Warmoth: Reconstruction Governor of Louisiana". Louisiana Historical Quarterly 30 (2): 556–557.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Henry Clay Warmoth.|
- State of Louisiana - Biography
- Inventory of the Henry Clay Warmoth Papers, 1798-1953, in the Southern Historical Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill.
- Encyclopedia Louisiana
- National Governors Association
- Cemetery Memorial by La-Cemeteries
|Governor of Louisiana
P. B. S. Pinchback