Murphy J. Foster

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Murphy James Foster
Murphy James Foster.jpg
United States Senator
from Louisiana
In office
March 4, 1901 – March 4, 1913
Preceded by Donelson Caffery
Succeeded by Joseph E. Ransdell
31st Governor of Louisiana
In office
May 10, 1892 – May 8, 1900
Lieutenant Charles Parlange (1892-1894)
Hiram R. Lott (1894-1896)
Robert H. Snyder (1896-1900)
Preceded by Francis T. Nicholls
Succeeded by William Wright Heard
Personal details
Born (1849-01-12)January 12, 1849
Franklin, Louisiana
Died June 12, 1921(1921-06-12) (aged 72)
Franklin, Louisiana
Political party Democratic

Murphy James Foster, Sr. (January 12, 1849 – June 12, 1921), was a Louisiana politician who served two terms as the 31st Governor of Louisiana from 1892 to 1900.[1] Foster's adoption of the Louisiana Constitution of 1898, disenfranchising blacks and Republicans, led to Louisiana becoming essentially a one-party (Democrat) state for several generations.

Early and personal life[edit]

Foster was born on a sugar plantation near Franklin, the seat of St. Mary Parish, to Thomas Foster and the former Martha P. Murphy. He was educated in public schools and attended Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, and graduated from Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee in 1870. He studied law at the University of Louisiana (later Tulane University) in New Orleans and was admitted to the bar in 1871.

On May 15, 1877, Foster married the former Florence Daisy Hine, the daughter of Franklin merchant T.D. Hine. She died on August 26, 1877, at age 19. In 1881, he married the former Rose Routh Ker, daughter of Captain John Ker and the former Rose Routh of Ouida Plantation in West Feliciana Parish near Baton Rouge. The couple had ten children, nine of whom lived to maturity. One was Murphy James Foster, II, the father of future Governor Murphy (Mike) Foster. By and large the family has been Episcopalian.

Road to governorship[edit]

Prior to serving as governor, he was a state senator from 1880 to 1892. In 1892, he was elected governor as the Democratic Party nominee, and he had the support of the Farmer's Alliance as well.

His lieutenant governors were, first, Hiram R. Lott and then Robert H. Snyder of Tensas Parish in the second term.

Foster appointed another Tensas Parish legislator, Thomas M. Wade of Newellton to the state board of education; Wade was later the long-term Tensas Parish school superintendent.[2]

John N. Pharr[edit]

In the 1896 general election, Foster officially gained reelection. He defeated the Republican-Populist fusion candidate John Newton Pharr (1829–1903), a sugar planter from St. Mary Parish. Lewis Strong Clarke, a neighboring sugar planter from St. Mary Parish, directed the Pharr campaign.[3] Pharr had possibly gained a majority of the actual votes and won twenty-six of the then fifty-nine parishes, with his greatest strength in north central Louisiana and the Florida Parishes to the east of Baton Rouge.[4] With the assistance of the Regular Democratic Organization political machine based in New Orleans,[5] Foster officially received 116,116 votes (57 percent) to Pharr's 87,698 ballots (43 percent). The election, however, suffered heavily from fraud which benefited Foster, and a clear accounting of the election results is probably not possible.[6] Subsequently Foster saw to the adoption of the Louisiana Constitution of 1898, "to disenfranchise blacks, Republicans, and white Populists"[7] (all of whom had voted overwhelmingly for John N. Pharr) and moved Louisiana more toward "Solid South" Democratic hegemony. Thus, after Foster's reelection in 1896, Louisiana general elections became foregone conclusions lacking intensity and voter participation until the latter half of the 20th century.[8] By 1908, for example, when John N. Pharr's son Henry Newton Pharr (eponym of Pharr, Texas) sought the Louisiana governorship as a Republican, he gained just 11.1 percent, of a much reduced number of voters in comparison with his father's campaign against Foster in 1896.[9]

Senator and customs official[edit]

After leaving the office of governor in 1900, Foster was elected by the state legislature as a U.S. senator. He served until 1913, when he lost the Democratic nomination. Thereafter, he was appointed by President Woodrow Wilson as the customs collector in New Orleans.


He died in 1921 on the Dixie Plantation near Franklin, some nine years before his future grandson-governor was born.


Foster struggled to maintain white supremacy in Louisiana through his support of the Louisiana Constitution of 1898, which practically disfranchised blacks. He also led the fight which succeeded in outlawing the Louisiana Lottery Co. Foster fought for the interest of sugar growers and supported flood-control legislation and the regulation of railway rates.

Foster was the last governor of Louisiana to serve two consecutive 4-year terms until John J. McKeithen (who served from 1964 to 1972).[10]

Foster was the last Democratic gubernatorial nominee prior to John J. McKeithen in the election cycle of 1963 to face a really serious challenge from a Republican (Charlton Lyons).

In 1997, Foster was posthumously inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield.[11]

His grandson, Murphy J. Foster, Jr., served as a Republican governor of the state from 1996 to 2004. Mike Foster is technically Foster III, but he uses the term "Jr." instead.


  1. ^ Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. "Murphy James Foster Historical Marker". 
  2. ^ Yearbook of American Clan Gregor Society, pp. 101-103. Richmond, Virginia: Appeals Press, 1916, Egbert Watson Magruder, ed. Retrieved July 18, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Clarke, Lewis Strong". Louisiana Historical Association, A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography ( Retrieved December 21, 2010. 
  4. ^ William C. Havard, Rudolf Heberle, and Perry H. Howard, The Louisiana Elections of 1960, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Studies, 1963, p. 24
  5. ^ Governor Murphy James Foster in Encyclopedia Louisiana (retrieved 2009-12-28).
  6. ^ Henry E. Chambers, History of Louisiana, Vol. 2 (Chicago: American Historical Society, 1925), pp. 15-16. See the excerpt on John N. Pharr's son, Henry Newton Pharr, at See also Pharr, Texas, namesake of Henry N. Pharr.
  7. ^ Biosketch of William Wright Heard on the Louisiana Secretary of State site (accessed 2009 December 28). Heard was easily elected as the Democratic nominee for governor in 1900, as the Democratic nomination had become tantamount to election.
  8. ^ See also the note to Murphy J. Foster.
  9. ^ See Jared Y. Sanders, Sr.#Legislature to governorship. For a summary of the Pharr family papers, see See also Henry Newton Pharr, Pharrs and Farrs, with other descendants from five Scotch-Irish pioneers in America, also some other Farrs and miscellaneous data (New Orleans: N.p., 1955), and Horack Talley site for Henry N. Pharr III.
  10. ^ In the meantime Earl K. Long served part of one term and all of two other terms, but the terms were not consecutive; Jimmie Davis served two nonconsecutive 4-year terms.
  11. ^ "Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame". Retrieved August 22, 2009. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Francis T. Nicholls
Governor of Louisiana
Succeeded by
William W. Heard
United States Senate
Preceded by
Donelson Caffery
US Senator (Class 2) from Louisiana
Succeeded by
Joseph E. Ransdell