If you want to be the Governor of Missouri someday, is there a stepping-stone office you should hold first? Pretty clearly, Eric Greitens has shown it’s not necessary. But which of the other four who will be sworn into office next week is in the best job to move up as a potential successor to Greitens? Let’s look at the statewide officers who have made the leap.
Lieutenant Governors who have become Governor: Daniel Dunklin, Lilburn Boggs, Meredith Miles Marmaduke, Hancock Lee Jackson, Willard Hall, Albert Morehouse, James T. Blair, Jr., Mel Carnahan, Roger Wilson. Marmaduke, Jackson, Hall, Morehouse, and Wilson moved up when the governor’s office became vacant through death or resignation. (Thomas C. Reynolds was elected Lieutenant Governor in 1860. His office was vacated when he and Governor Claiborne Jackson fled to the Confederacy at the start of the Civil War. When Jackson died, Reynolds became the Confederate Governor of Missouri. Supporters of the Lost Cause chafe at the refusal to list him as a legitimate governor of the state although for some of that time his “capitol” was a house in Marshall, Texas and he never had any administrative authority in the general state government.) Nine.
Secretaries of State: Hamilton Gamble, John Edwards, Warren Hearnes, Matt Blunt. Four
Auditors: Forest Smith, Christopher Bond, John Ashcroft. Three
Treasurers: Lon Stephens, Mel Carnahan, Bob Holden. Three.
Attorneys General: Thomas Crittenden, Herbert Hadley, Elliott Major, John Dalton, John Ashcroft, Jeremiah Nixon. Six
Only John Ashcroft and Mel Carnahan held two of the top six offices before becoming Governor.
Twenty-three men have moved from one of those six offices into the governorship. Thirty have had other origins.
Some sources—the state’s Official Manual, for instance—say Jay Nixon is Missouri’s 55th Governor. Actually, he is our 53rd but he has run Missouri’s 55th gubernatorial administration. Governors Phil Donnelly and Christopher Bond served two separate terms, Donnelly because the Missouri Constitution at the time prohibited a governor from succeeding himself and Bond because he lost a re-election to Joe Teasdale in 1976. Eric Greitens, by the way, will become the first Governor since Teasdale, forty years ago, with no previous experience in one of the six statewide offices.
If being in one of those offices is not an automatic stepping-stone to the governorship, what might be?
We’ve looked at the careers of all of the other thirty governors and here are some of the results.
Some served in the U. S. House before becoming Governor: Price, McClurg, Phillips, Stone, Dockery, Caulfield.
Some were in the U. S. Senate before becoming Governor: Stewart, Brown
State House of Representatives: Reynolds (Speaker), King, Price, C. F Jackson (Speaker), Brown, Hardin, Morehouse, Donnelly
State Senate: Williams (Pro Tem), Hardin, Donnelly.
Some had been county or city prosecutors, or the equivalent: Polk, Stone, Folk, Donnell, Teasdale.
Some had been mayors: Francis, Dockery, Hyde, Caulfield, Blair.
Judge: Bates (Michigan), Reynolds (Illinois), King, Park.
U. S. Marshall: McNair
County official: Fletcher
State School Superintendent: Baker
No political office held: Woodson, John Marmaduke, Gardner, Stark. (and soon, Greitens)
We’ve compiled some thumbnails of the political careers of the thirty and we attach them for whatever interest you might have. If you have none, you can consider your reading of this entry complete.
Alexander McNair, our first governor, was a former U. S. Marshal and was on the St. Louis Board of Town Trustees for two terms. He also commanded the First Missouri Mounted Militia during the War of 1812.
Frederick Bates was a Justice of the Supreme Court in Michigan Territory before he became the Secretary of the Louisiana Territory and recorder of land titles. He was the acting Governor when William Clark was out of the territory and in the interim after Benjamin Howard resigned to accept a military commission and before Clark was appointed to succeed him.
Abraham J. Williams was the President Pro Tem of the Senate when Bates died. Since Benjamin Reeves had resigned as Lt. Governor to go survey the Santa Fe Trail, Williams became acting governor until a special election selected John Miller who had been the Registrar of the Howard County Land Office at a time when Howard County was huge (several counties were divided away from it) and settlement in the area was booming.
Thomas Reynolds was a former Supreme Court Chief Justice in Illinois then a member of the Illinois House. He was the Speaker of the Missouri House before becoming a circuit judge, a position he held before becoming governor.
Austin King was a former circuit judge (he presided over the trial of Mormon leader Joseph Smith), and a former two-term member of the Missouri House.
Sterling Price was a former member of the Missouri House and served part of a term in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Trusten Polk had been the city counselor in St. Louis and was a delegate to the Missouri Constitutional Convention of 1845.
Robert Stewart was a state senator for ten years.
Claiborne F. Jackson was in the House for twelve years, four as Speaker. He served two terms in the Senate and then was state banking commissioner when he became Governor.
Thomas Fletcher, our 18th governor was the first one born in Missouri. He was a circuit clerk in Jefferson County and was a temporary Brigadier General in the Union Army.
Joseph McClurg, Union Army Colonel and three-term member of Congress before becoming governor.
Benjamin Gratz Brown was a former member of the Missouri House and a U. S. Senator during the Civil War.
Silas Woodson was a trial lawyer whose only other attempt at public office was an unsuccessful candidacy for the legislature.
Charles Hardin served in the Missouri House and was elected to the Missouri Senate before the Civil War. He served in Missouri’s Confederate Senate-on-the run and was the only senator to vote against secession, then was elected after the war to the state senate again before becoming governor.
John S. Phelps served nine terms in the U. S. House, was the Military Governor of Arkansas during the Civil War.
John Marmaduke was on the first State Railroad Commission and was a highly-respected Confederate General during the War of Northern Invasion/War of Southern Rebellion (depending on where you stood in those days).
David R. Francis is the first mayor elected to the governorship. He was the Mayor of St. Louis when he was chosen as governor.
William Stone was a county prosecutor for a couple of years and a Congressman for six more.
Alexander M. Dockery was a town council and Mayor of Gallatin before serving sixteen years in Congress and then becoming Governor.
Joseph Folk was the circuit attorney in St. Louis (the prosecutor) who made his reputation prosecuting corruption in the city government and the Baking Powder Scandal in the legislature.
Frederick Gardner was a coffin and hearse-maker in St. Louis who never sought office until he won the governorship in 1916 and never sought office again after his term.
Arthur Hyde was a two-term Mayor of Princeton, a lawyer and a car dealer.
Sam A. Baker was the State Superintendent of Schools, at the time an elective position, before becoming Governor.
Henry Caulfield was a one-term member of Congress and later the city counselor for St. Louis.
Guy B. Park was a relatively obscure circuit judge in Platte County when the Democratic candidate for Governor died a few weeks before the election in 1932. Boss Tom Pendergast of Kansas City “suggested” he be the replacement.
Lloyd Stark had held no elective office before being elected governor although he did chair the state’s 1928 road bond campaign.
Forrest Donnell had been the city attorney of Webster Groves.
Phil Donnelly served two years in the House and twenty years in the Missouri Senate.
Joseph P. Teasdale was the youngest person elected Jackson County prosecutor.