When compared to those of other states, the Governorship of Texas has been described as one of relative weakness. In some respects, it is the Lieutenant Governor of Texas, who presides over the Texas Senate, who possesses greater influence to exercise their prerogatives.
The governor is inaugurated on the third Tuesday of January every four years along with the Lieutenant Governor, and serves a term of four years. Prior to the present laws, in 1845, the state's first constitution established the office of governor, serving a term of two years, but no more than four years of every six. The 1861 constitution, following secession from the Union, established the first Monday of November following election as the term's start. Following the end of the American Civil War, the 1866 constitution increased term length to four years, limiting overall service to no more than eight years of every twelve, moving the term's start to the first Thursday following organization of the legislature, or "as soon thereafter as practicable." The constitution of 1869, enacted during Reconstruction, removed term limitations, to this day making Texas one of fourteen states with no limit on gubernatorial terms. The present constitution of 1876 returned terms to two years, but a 1972 amendment again returned them to four.
In the case of a vacancy in the office, the lieutenant governor becomes governor. Prior to a 1999 amendment, the lieutenant governor only acted as governor until the expiration of the term to which he succeeded.
As of May 2015[update], there are three former U.S. governors of Texas who are currently living at this time, the oldest being Mark White (1983–1987, born 1940). The most recent death of a former U.S. governor of Texas was that of Bill Clements (1979–1983, 1987–1991), on May 29, 2011. The most recent U.S. governor of Texas to serve who has died is Ann Richards (1991–1995), who died on September 13, 2006.
Texas has had two female governors: Miriam A. "Ma" Ferguson and Ann Richards. Ferguson was one of the first two women elected governor of a U.S. state (on November 4, 1924), along with Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming. Ross was inaugurated on January 5, 1925, while Ferguson was inaugurated on January 20, so Ross is considered the first female state governor. Ferguson was the wife of former governor Jim "Pa" Ferguson, while Richards was elected "in her own right," being neither the spouse nor widow of a governor.
Three governors have served non-consecutive terms: Elisha M. Pease, Miriam A. Ferguson, and Bill Clements. As was the case in most Southern states, Texas elected no Republican governors from the end of Reconstruction until the late twentieth century. Bill Clements was the state's first Republican governor since Edmund J. Davis left office in 1874, 105 years earlier. Dolph Briscoe was the last governor to be elected to a two-year term, in 1972; he was also the first to be elected to a four-year term, in 1974, since the post-Reconstruction period when two-year terms had first been established. Rick Perry, who ascended to the governorship on December 21, 2000 upon the resignation of then-Governor George W. Bush, won full four-year terms in 2002, 2006 and 2010.
Ann Richards had a cameo appearance on an episode of the animated comedy series King of the Hill, in which she has a brief romance with Bill Dauterive after he takes the fall for mooning her in the elevator of an Austin hotel (Hank actually mooned her because he thought his friends were going to be mooning the people in the elevator but they set him up).
^The fractional terms of some governors are not to be absolutely literally; rather, they are meant to show single terms during which multiple governors served, due to resignations, deaths and the like.