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The Backstory: Remembering the only Texas governor to face impeachment

The governor billed the Texas treasury for 8.5 gallons of chicken salad, leading to his downfall.

AUSTIN, Texas — They called him “Farmer Jim,” though he wasn’t much of a farmer. James Ferguson was a banker from Temple who would become governor in 1914 – famous, or infamous, as the only Texas governor to face impeachment.

He was popular for his folksy charm across what was then a predominantly rural state, but not so popular among legislators.

During his second term in office, he picked a fight with the University of Texas and demanded that six professors who supported his opponent during his re-election campaign be fired. And when they weren’t fired, he cut UT’s funding. It was the beginning of Ferguson’s downfall.

Then there was the “chicken salad” matter.

Even though a court had ruled that the State shouldn’t have to pay for the governor’s groceries, Ferguson kept sending the bills for his food to the State.

An example: The governor billed the Texas treasury for 8.5 gallons of chicken salad, 250 sandwiches and a large quantity of punch, worth more than $4,000 in today’s dollars. Because of that, and for other transgressions, the Texas Senate found Ferguson guilty on five charges relating to mishandling of public funds and abuse of power. He resigned before he could be removed from office and hoped to run again. He did run and lost.

But what happened next makes the story even more interesting.

Ferguson’s wife, Mariam, known as “Ma” Ferguson, ran for governor and won: A story we’ll share another time.

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