Edmond Noel

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Edmond Favor Noel
Edmond Noel.jpg
37th Governor of Mississippi
In office
January 21, 1908 – January 16, 1912
Lieutenant Luther Manship
Preceded by James K. Vardaman
Succeeded by Earl L. Brewer
Member of the Mississippi Senate
In office
Member of the Mississippi House of Representatives
Personal details
Born (1856-03-04)March 4, 1856
near Lexington, Mississippi
Died July 30, 1927(1927-07-30) (aged 71)
Lexington, Mississippi
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Loula Hoskins (m. 1890)
Alice Tye Neilson (m. 1905)
Profession Lawyer

Edmond Favor Noel (March 4, 1856 – July 30, 1927) was an American attorney and politician who was the governor of Mississippi from 1908 to 1912. The son of a planter family, he became a member of the Democratic Party.

Noel was elected to the state house, as a district attorney, and to the state senate before winning election as governor. He achieved gains in education, child labor laws, and established a state charity hospital. After his tenure, he was re-elected to the state senate.

Early life, family and education[edit]

Edmond Favor Noel was born in 1856 on his family's cotton plantation in Holmes County, Mississippi near the city of Lexington, the third son of several children of Leland Noel. His father had become a successful cotton planter before the war. His mother was Margaret Ann Sanders, daughter of a Virginia planter. The earliest Noel ancestor in America immigrated to the Virginia Colony in the 1660s from the Netherlands, where his French Huguenot ancestor had migrated because of religious persecution in France.[1] Edmond was named after his paternal uncle, Edmund Faver Noel, and in some records his name appears with the same spelling.

Leland Noel and his brother Edmund were sent to Mississippi in 1835 by their father as young unmarried men from their home plantation Paynefield in Essex County, Virginia, to develop a 1200-acre property he had bought in Franklin. The brothers later purchased their own plantation properties in Holmes County and married. Together with a younger third brother, William L. Noel, who joined them, the three became major slaveholders. According to the 1860 Slave Schedules of the US Census, the three held 130 slaves in total that year; Leland held the most.[2] They cultivated extensive cotton plantations in Holmes County.

Edmond's father Leland lost great wealth after the Civil War. Rather than going to law school after college, Edmond Noel worked and 'read the law' with an established firm and passed the bar. He joined the Democratic Party.

Political career[edit]

When Noel entered politics, he was elected first to the Mississippi House of Representatives and later as a district attorney. In 1890 the Democratic-dominated legislature passed a new constitution with provisions that disenfranchised most African Americans, a status enforced through much of the 1960s. This also crippled the Republican Party in the state, whose members had been primarily African Americans.

In 1895 Noel was elected to the Mississippi State Senate. He served in the U.S. Army in the Spanish–American War (1898). He was re-elected to the state senate in 1899.

During his time in the State Senate, Noel authored Mississippi's primary election law, designed to exclude blacks from the primary. In 1902, Mississippi passed this law, which defined political parties as private organizations and therefore outside the authority of the 15th Amendment.

Thereafter, the Mississippi Democratic Party excluded black citizens from membership and participation in its primaries. The "white primary," a device soon imitated in laws passed in most other Southern states, "effectively prevented the small number of blacks registered to vote from having any say in who got elected to partisan offices--from the local sheriff to the governor and members of Congress."[3] Noel also promoted a state constitutional amendment providing for an elected judiciary.

In 1903 Noel tried to gain the party nomination for governor of Mississippi but was unsuccessful. By that time the disenfranchisement of blacks had resulted in a one-party Democratic state; the only competitive races in the state were the Democratic Party primaries; whoever won the primary was sure to win the general election.

In 1907, Noel won the Democratic primary and was elected as Governor of Mississippi. He achieved numerous progressive reforms, including in education. These reforms included consolidation of the state's rural school districts, the establishment of agricultural high schools for whites, and the founding of a teacher's college in Hattiesburg (restricted to white students). Noel's administration also gained passage of laws regulating child labor, establishing statewide prohibition,[4] founding of a state charity hospital and establishing pure food laws.[5]

The business community in Jackson had recommended that both the 66-year-old Governor's Mansion and the Old Capitol be demolished and the sites developed for commercial use. Noel and his wife Alice worked together to promote preservation and renovation of the mansion. Through their efforts, it received its first major renovation and was updated for continued use.[5]

After the end of his term, Noel continued to be active in state politics. In 1918, he was unsuccessful in his run for the United States Senate. Since adoption of the 17th Amendment in 1913, US senators were elected for the first time by popular vote rather than by state legislatures. Noel ranked third; both he and Pat Harrison lost to the incumbent, populist US Senator James K. Vardaman.

In 1920, Noel was elected again to the Mississippi State Senate, where he served until his death in 1927.

Marriage and family[edit]

Noel married Loula Hoskins in 1890. They had children together, including sons, before her death.

Secondly, he married again in 1905, to young widow Alice Josephine (Tye) Neilson (1868-1933) in 1905. She brought her two young sons, Halbert and Edwin, with her to the marriage.[6] She served as First Lady when Noel was governor. She aided him in working to preserve and renovate the Governor's Mansion.[5]

Death and burial[edit]

Noel is buried at Odd Fellows Cemetery in Lexington, Mississippi. His wife Alice Noel was buried there after her death in 1933.


  1. ^ Jennie Noel Weeks, The Emigrant Cornelius Noel, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints' Family History Center
  2. ^ "HOLMES COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI/ LARGEST SLAVEHOLDERS FROM 1860 SLAVE CENSUS SCHEDULES", Transcribed by Tom Blake, 2003, Rootsweb/Ancestry.com, accessed 22 December 2015
  3. ^ "Race and Voting in the Segregated South", Constitutional Rights Foundation, 2015, accessed 28 December 2015
  4. ^ "Mississippi Governor Edmond Favor Noel". National Governors Association. Retrieved 2008-09-25. 
  5. ^ a b c David G. Sansing, "Edmond Favor Noel: Thirty-seventh Governor of Mississippi: 1908-1912" Archived September 12, 2015, at the Wayback Machine., Mississippi History Now, 2004, accessed 28 December 2015
  6. ^ "Alice Tye Neilson", 1900 US Census, Beat 3, Holmes County, Mississippi; accessed 28 December 2015

Further reading[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
James K. Vardaman
Governor of Mississippi
Succeeded by
Earl L. Brewer