John Ellis Martineau

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John Ellis Martineau
28th Governor of Arkansas
In office
January 11, 1927 – March 4, 1928
LieutenantHarvey Parnell
Preceded byTom Jefferson Terral
Succeeded byHarvey Parnell
Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas
In office
Nominated byCalvin Coolidge
Preceded byJacob Trieber
Succeeded byThomas Clark Trimble III
Member of the Arkansas House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
Born(1873-12-02)December 2, 1873
Clay County, Missouri, US
DiedMarch 6, 1937(1937-03-06) (aged 63)
Little Rock, Arkansas, US
Resting placeRoselawn Memorial Park in Little Rock, Arkansas
Political partyDemocratic
Alma mater

John Ellis Martineau (December 2, 1873 – March 6, 1937) was the 28th Governor of Arkansas, having served for less than one term from 1927 to 1928. His term was marked by the Great Mississippi Flood, when he was named president of the Tri-State Flood Commission.

Life and career[edit]

John Ellis Martineau was born in Clay County in western Missouri and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in 1896 and obtained his law degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law in 1899. After graduation, he served as a school administrator.

From 1902 to 1905, he was a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives. He was appointed chancellor of the First Chancery Court in 1907 and served in that capacity until 1927.

While serving in that court he issued a writ of habeas corpus for defendants in the criminal prosecutions arising out of the Elaine Race Riot in Phillips County in eastern Arkansas. Although the Arkansas Supreme Court later vacated that order, it allowed the defendants enough time to avoid execution and to seek habeas corpus relief in federal court. Their guilty verdicts were eventually reversed by the United States Supreme Court in its groundbreaking decision in Moore v. Dempsey.

Martineau ran unsuccessfully for governor in the 1924 Democratic primary. In 1926, he unseated in the primary the one-term incumbent Tom Jefferson Terral and then defeated in the general election the Republican attorney Drew Bowers, originally from Pocahontas in Randolph County, in northeastern Arkansas. Martineau received 76.5 percent of the vote to Bowers's 23.6 percent. Bowers was an assistant U.S. attorney for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas in both the Coolidge and Eisenhower administrations.

Martineau was the first governor of Arkansas to broadcast his inaugural address on radio.[1] The Martineau administration established a Confederate pensions board and authorized state aid to cities for highway construction through the Martineau Road Plan.

Governor Martineau was forced to deal with a major crisis when the Mississippi River broke free of its banks and covered 13 percent of the state during the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. Martineau was named president of the Tri-State Flood Commission. In May 1927, Martineau called out the National Guard in response to the lynching of an African-American prisoner by a mob of 2,000 to 5,000 people in Little Rock. The crime gained national notoriety.

Martineau never finished his term as governor, for on March 2, 1928, U.S. President Calvin Coolidge appointed Martineau federal judge for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas.[2] The appointment was recommended by then United States Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, who had worked with Martineau in the Mississippi flood. The selection stood in sharp contrast to the partisanship usually evident in the selection of federal judges. Martineau served in this position until his death nearly a decade later in Little Rock.

Martineau earned the reputation of fairness, integrity, and as a progressive politician. His role in state politics and effective management of crisis situations further secured his reputation as one of Arkansas better governors and brought him national attention.[3]

Martineau was a member of the secret society, Knights of Pythias, and the fraternal organization of the Freemasons[4]

Martineau is an 1894 initiate of the Kappa Sigma - Xi chapter at the University of Arkansas.[5] Contemporaries of Martineau at Xi Chapter included future State Senator and acting Arkansas Governor Xenophon Overton Pindall, future acting Governor Michael Pleasant Huddleston, future Federal Judge Thomas Clark Trimble III, and future Congressman and Federal Judge Samuel Billingsley Hill.[6]

Martineau died in 1937 from influenza[7] and like numerous Arkansas governors is interred at Roselawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Little Rock.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ [2]
  3. ^ [3]
  4. ^ [4]
  5. ^ Xi Chapter: Century of Tradition at the University of Arkansas
  6. ^ Xi Chapter: Century of Tradition at the University of Arkansas
  7. ^ [5]

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Tom Jefferson Terral
Governor of Arkansas
Succeeded by
Harvey Parnell
Legal offices
Preceded by
Jacob Trieber
Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas
Succeeded by
Thomas Clark Trimble III