The Only Texas Governor Appointed by the Federal Government
Today marks the 146th anniversary of the resignation of Texas Gov. Elisha M. Pease, who resigned during Reconstruction during the state’s years-long battle towards reunification — the only governor to be appointed to the state's highest office by the federal government.
While that may not seem surprising – an antebellum Texas governor opposing the Union – Pease’s reason for doing so may: He sought to preserve the 14th Amendment.
Prior to his appointment as governor in the wake of the Civil War, Pease had served in both houses of the Texas Legislature, along with two terms as the state’s chief executive.
During his first tenure as governor, Pease used his bully pulpit to pass “A Bill to Establish the University of Texas” in 1858, which was modeled in part off the University of Virginia. He also helped create the first public school system in Texas.
In the wake of the Civil War, Pease, a Republican, again ran for governor in 1866, but lost to James W. Throckmorton by a four to one margin.
But, after the Civil War, the Military Reconstruction Act ostensibly placed former Confederate states under the thumb of the U.S. military, and both Texas and Louisiana were organized into the Fifth Military District.
The act required each of the states to ratify the 14th Amendment, in addition to holding constitutional conventions to implement African-American suffrage, before reunification with the states. The act also allowed district commanders, all of whom were Union Army generals, to appoint and remove state officials at will.
Both Throckmorton and eventually Pease would lose their gubernatorial positions as a result of that provision. However, they both went about it in markedly different ways. Throckmorton was deposed partly because he was a Democrat, but also because he turned a blind eye to violence against black Texans and those that supported the Union and was deemed an “impediment to Reconstruction.”
Pease, on the other hand, was tactically appointed. He’d organized the state’s Republican party and already had experience leading the state. He annulled state laws that assisted the Confederacy and also sought federal intervention after a statewide rash of cases of violence against African-American citizens, namely the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in Texas.
Ultimately, that request wasn’t met during his tenure. He expressed open distaste with federal inaction and suggested at the state's Reconstruction convention in 1868 that it jeopardized the goal of enforcing the 14th Amendment.
Shortly after, in 1869, he resigned, but his desire for a statewide police was made manifest by his successor E.J. Davis. In 1870 Davis established a state police, along with the State Guard of Texas — the predecessors to the group monitoring the Jade Helm exercises this summer.