Miriam A. Ferguson
|29th & 32nd Governor of Texas|
January 17, 1933 – January 15, 1935
|Preceded by||Ross Sterling|
|Succeeded by||James Allred|
January 20, 1925 – January 17, 1927
|Preceded by||Pat Neff|
|Succeeded by||Dan Moody|
|First Lady of Texas|
January 19, 1915 – August 25, 1917
|Preceded by||Alice Colquitt|
|Succeeded by||Willie Hobby|
|Born||Miriam Amanda Wallace Ferguson
June 13, 1875
Bell County, Texas, U.S.
|Died||June 25, 1961
Austin, Texas, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||James Ferguson (1899–1944)|
|Alma mater||Salado College
University of Mary Hardin
She got her nickname "Ma" partly from her initials "M. A.", and also because her husband was known as "Pa" Ferguson. They had two daughters, Oudia and Dorris.
James Ferguson served as Governor of Texas from 1915 to 1917. However, he was impeached, convicted, and removed from office during his second term. As part of his conviction, he was not allowed to hold state office in Texas again.
1924 election and first term
After her husband's impeachment and conviction, Ma Ferguson sought the Democratic nomination for governor, and was elected to office. She told voters that she would follow the advice of her husband and Texas thus would get "two governors for the price of one." A common campaign slogan was, "Me for Ma, and I Ain't Got a Durned Thing Against Pa." Against the odds, Ma Ferguson was elected governor, becoming the first female chief executive of Texas. Ferguson was elected with the help and support of her campaign manager, Homer T. Brannon of Fort Worth, Texas.
After her victory in the Democratic primary, she defeated George C. Butte, a prominent lawyer and University of Texas dean who emerged as the strongest Republican gubernatorial nominee in Texas since Reconstruction in 1869. Ferguson received 422,563 votes (58.9 percent) to Butte's 294,920 (41.1 percent). Butte had been supported by former Governor William P. Hobby, who had succeeded James Ferguson in 1917. Ma Ferguson was the second female state governor in the United States, and the first to be elected in a general election. Just two weeks before her inauguration, Nellie Tayloe Ross had been sworn in as governor of Wyoming to finish the unexpired term of her late husband.
1932 election and second term
Ferguson ran again in 1932. She narrowly won the Democratic nomination over incumbent Ross S. Sterling. She then soundly defeated Republican Orville Bullington in the general election, 521,395 (61.6 percent) to 322,589 (38.1 percent). Bullington, who was a cousin of the first wife of future U.S. Senator John G. Tower, fared more strongly than most Texas Republican candidates did at that time but still polled behind Butte's 1924 showing against Mrs. Ferguson. Ferguson's second term as governor was less controversial than the first.
According to rumor, state highway contracts only went to companies that advertised in the Fergusons' newspaper, Ferguson Forum. A House committee investigated the charge but nothing ever came of it.
Views and policies
"Fergusonism," as the Fergusons' brand of populism was called, is still a controversial subject in Texas. As governor, she tackled some of the tougher issues of the day. Though a teetotaler like her husband, she aligned herself with the "wets" in the battle over prohibition and took a firm stand against the Ku Klux Klan. She has been described as a fiscal conservative, but also pushed for a state sales tax and corporate income tax. Miriam Ferguson is often credited with a quote allegedly spoken in reference to bilingualism in Texas schools: “If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it ought to be good enough for the children of Texas.” However, variations of this going back to 1881 were often used to ridicule the claimed backwardness of various unnamed Christians, which supports the argument that the attribution to Ferguson is false.
Mrs. Ferguson's infamously generous granting of pardons was her way of relieving the overcrowded conditions in Texas prisons. During two non-consecutive terms in office, Mrs. Ferguson issued almost 4,000 pardons, many of them to free those convicted of violating prohibition laws. Though never proven, rumors persisted that pardons were available in exchange for cash payments to the governor’s husband. In 1936, voters passed an amendment to the state constitution stripping the governor of the power to issue pardons and granting that power to a politically independent Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles (see Capital punishment in Texas).
Except for an unsuccessful bid to replace Governor W. Lee "Pappy" O'Daniel in 1940, the Fergusons remained retired from political life after 1935. In that campaign, she trailed O'Daniel's principal rival, Texas Railroad Commissioner Ernest O. Thompson of Amarillo.
James Ferguson died of a stroke in 1944.
Miriam Ferguson died from congestive heart failure in 1961 at the age of eighty-six.
- "Portraits of Texas Governors: The Politics of Personality". Texas State Library. Retrieved 2007-04-13.
- Coppedge, Clay (25 February 2007). "A city grows up: Temple matures into a regional medical and agricultural hub". Temple Daily Telegram. Retrieved 2007-04-13.
- John D. Huddleston. "Ferguson, Miriam Amanda Wallace". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association.
- Coppedge, Clay (March 25, 2007). "'Ma' elected governor of Texas". Temple Daily Telegram.
- Ferguson and Ross actually both won election on the same day, but Wyoming inaugurated its governor before Texas.
- "Discover UH's Heritage & History". UH Alumni Organization. Archived from the original on 2008-05-14. Retrieved 2008-05-29.
- Cárdenas, José A. (1994). All Pianos Have Keys and Other Stories. Intercultural Development Research Association. ISBN 1-878550-53-5.
- Zimmer, Benjamin (2006-04-29). "Ma Ferguson, the apocryphal know-nothing". Language Log. University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 2007-09-25.
- Texas State Libraries and Archives Commission: "Pardons and Paroles" retrieved October 20, 2011.
- "ferguson cutoff map, austin, tx – Google Search". google.com. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
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|First Lady of Texas
|Party political offices|
|Democratic nominee for Governor of Texas
|Democratic nominee for Governor of Texas
|Governor of Texas
|Governor of Texas