Missouri State Archives
Guide to African American History
Office of the Governor
The governor is the chief executive officer of the state. He is elected to a four-year term and may seek re-election to a second four-year term. The governor appoints the members of all boards and commissions, the heads of all state government agencies, and fills vacancies in public office. He addresses the General Assembly on the state of the government, recommends actions, and submits a budget. All bills and joint resolutions passed by both houses of the legislature are submitted to the governor for his consideration and approval or veto. The constitution, statute, or custom assigns many other gubernatorial duties. Writs of election may be issued by the governor, as well as the power to grant commutations and pardons. In addition, the governor is the commander-in-chief of the state's militia; as such, he may call out the militia to execute laws, suppress threats of danger, and prevent invasion.
Record Group 003: Governors' Papers, 1836 - 2000 (incomplete); arranged chronologically.
These records include gubernatorial papers discussing various aspects of Missouri's African American history. The records are incomplete; interested researchers may want to consult the collection of governors' papers held by the State Historical Society of Missouri (Columbia). The Messages and Proclamations of the Governors of the State of Missouri, published by the State Historical Society of Missouri, should also be consulted when researching gubernatorial actions. This 20-volume series, including governors from Alexander McNair through John Dalton, consists of biographical sketches; inaugural addresses; messages for special sessions and veto sessions, and to the House and Senate; proclamations offering rewards, calling sessions, and declaring holidays; as well as miscellaneous materials, including writs of election.
Papers maintained at the Missouri State Archives date from Governor Lilburn Boggs' 1836-1840 administration through Governor Mel Carnahan (1993-2000). Nineteenth century issues directed to the governor include abolitionist activities, runaway slaves, slave executions, border troubles with Kansas, black suffrage, racial crimes, and pardons for black inmates (see also Pardon Papers). Achieving civil rights were a primary concern for African Americans in the twentieth century. The governor appointed commissions to address these inequalities, such as the Missouri Negro Industrial Commission and the Missouri Commission on Human Rights. Records are most often in the form of correspondence to the governor; the governor's reply is generally not available. Requests for gubernatorial appointments, commission reports and press releases are also included. Correspondence is informative, as comments about race and/or African American citizens appear as issues secondary to the letter's primary purpose; a careful perusal of gubernatorial correspondence allows researchers to better understand the racial environment during specific periods. See also official publications of the governor's office maintained in the State Government Documents collection and the Gubernatorial Appointments series in the Office of the Secretary of State.
Lilburn Boggs, 1836-1840
Boggs, of Kentucky, was a fur trader by profession. He was elected to the legislature in 1826 and as Lieutenant Governor of Missouri in 1832. He served as governor from 1836 through 1840. During his term, he ousted Mormon citizens from the state with his "Extermination Order." Boggs died in California in 1860. His collection of papers contains correspondence from state legislators, federal officials, and Missouri residents. An unsigned letter regarding the abolition of slavery and a letter referencing slaves in correspondence regarding the trial of a thief in Lewis County are included.
Thomas Reynolds, 1840-1844
Reynolds, a Kentucky native, came to Missouri in 1828. He was a member of the General Assembly and a circuit judge. Requests for political appointments and commission posts comprise the bulk of the collection. Discussion of slavery in other states is included in his correspondence, as well as concern about abolitionist activity in Missouri. In 1843, in a letter to Illinois Governor Thomas Ford, Reynolds requested extradition of an abolitionist.
John C. Edwards, 1844-1848
A Kentucky native, Edwards migrated to Missouri in 1828. He was appointed Secretary of State in 1830, a position he held until 1837. He served in both the state legislature and Congress and was elected governor in 1844. The collection contains some correspondence relating to slavery in the state. The sheriff of St. Charles County wrote Edwards concerning the escape of a slave named Isaac Dean; a physical description is included. The Johnson County sheriff asked Edwards to offer a reward for the capture of a runaway Kentucky slave named John, who was also accused of murder; the sheriff notes a physical description of John.
Austin A. King, 1848-1853
Born in Tennessee, King came to Missouri around 1830. He was appointed Ray County Circuit Judge in 1837, and elected governor in 1848. Following his term, he served in the United States Congress, elected in 1862. His papers contain information about slavery in antebellum Missouri, including correspondence about the capture of a runaway slave, Wade, in the Cape Girardeau area; the murder of a slave named Willis on board the steamboat Atlantic; and the prosecution of persons kidnapping slaves from Illinois. The Marion County sheriff asked King to post a reward for the capture of an escaped prisoner, William H. Kinney, indicted for selling a free Negro as a slave.
Sterling Price, 1853-1857
A native of Virginia, Price moved to Missouri in 1831, settling in Fayette. By profession a farmer and merchant, he was elected to the state legislature in 1840, and then to the U.S. Congress in 1844. He commanded a regiment during the Mexican War. After his gubernatorial term, he served in the Confederate army during the Civil War. The Price collection contains correspondence relating to slavery. Key documents include letters requesting a stay of execution for Celia, a Callaway County slave convicted of murdering her sexually abusive owner. Other letters include a request for the pardon of a "colored" man in the Missouri State Penitentiary and a request for interstate travel to capture escaped slaves.
Hancock Lee Jackson, 1857 (February - October)
Born in Kentucky, Jackson settled in Missouri in 1821. He was the first sheriff of Randolph County and served as a captain in the Mexican War. A term in the state senate (elected 1850) was followed by his election as Lieutenant Governor in 1856. When Governor Trusten Polk left office for the United States Senate, Jackson became acting governor, but was unsuccessful in his own 1860 election bid. Much of his collection includes requests for political appointments and pardon requests. A Monroe County citizen asked Jackson to offer a reward for the capture of George, "a negro man," accused of murdering Mrs. John Davis of that county.
Robert M. Stewart, 1857-1861
Stewart was born in New York and came to Missouri in 1839. He settled in St. Joseph, and set up practice as an attorney. From 1846 through 1857, he served as state senator; he was elected governor in a special election following Governor Trusten Polk's resignation. His papers include requests for appointments and commission posts, including one from a man who rejected "free soilers." Other correspondence makes reference to "Bleeding Kansas" and "abolition fanatics." See also Stewart's correspondence with Kansas officials during the Missouri - Kansas border troubles in Record Group 005: Office of the Secretary of State, Special Collections.
Claiborne Fox Jackson, 1861
A Kentucky native who emigrated to Missouri's "Little Dixie" area, Jackson was elected state representative in 1836 (Saline County) and in 1840 (Howard County). He served as Speaker of the House twice before his election as state senator in 1848. Jackson introduced the infamous proslavery "Jackson Resolutions." The resolutions stated that Congress did not have the power to halt the spread of slavery; that a U.S. citizen could take his property, including slavery, to any American territory; and that slavery could only be prohibited in a territory by popular vote. The collection only contains four letters, one of which is Jackson's correspondence to the governor of Arkansas. The letter references the future of the Union, slavery, abolition, states' rights, and "Black Republicans."
Willard P. Hall, 1864-1865
Born in Virginia, Hall settled in western Missouri in 1840. Elected to Congress in 1846, he served three terms. In 1861, the State Convention appointed him Lieutenant Governor; he became governor upon the death of Hamilton Gamble in 1864. This small collection contains one letter referencing slavery.
Thomas C. Fletcher, 1865-1869
Fletcher was the first native-born Missourian to serve as governor. A lawyer by occupation, he was appointed Assistant Provost Marshal General in St. Louis in 1861; serving in combat, he was wounded and imprisoned in Libby Prison until 1863. He commanded the infantry in the Battle of Pilot Knob. After his 1864 election as governor, Fletcher issued an Emancipation Proclamation (11 January 1865) which freed all Missouri slaves nearly a year before the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. Included in his correspondence are references to the education of African American children, compensation for emancipated slaves, black suffrage, African Americans serving in the military, and racial crimes.
Joseph Washington McClurg, 1869-1871
A native of St. Louis County, McClurg served in Congress for three terms. There, he voted for the abolition of slavery even though he owned slaves. The Republican Party nominated McClurg for governor in 1868; he served one term. Much of the correspondence in his collection relates to requests for pardons, commission appointments, and fine remittance. Included among the pardon requests are those for former slaves William Clark, Joseph Washington, and Melville Wells.
Benjamin Gratz Brown, 1871-1873
Born in Kentucky, Brown moved to St. Louis in 1849, where he practiced law. A supporter of U.S. Senator Thomas Hart Benton, Brown served several terms in Missouri's General Assembly and one term in the U.S. Senate. The papers in his collection refer to a number of issues facing Missouri during the Reconstruction period following the Civil War. One letter from Carter County describes a family terrorized by the Ku Klux Klan; other correspondence reveals Klan intimidation tactics in the area, warning against the building of African American schools and churches. Brown pardoned several former slaves for various crimes, and received messages regarding black education and Lincoln Institute in Jefferson City.
Silas Woodson, 1873-1875
Woodson was born in Kentucky and migrated to Missouri in 1854. He practiced law in St. Joseph and, in 1872, became the first Democratic governor elected in Missouri after the Civil War. Correspondence relating to African Americans primarily relates to gubernatorial pardons. There are some references to "Negro Gambling House Saloons," and request for a pardon for John Stephens, who kept a Kansas City boarding house for "colored railroad employees."
David R. Francis, 1889-1892
Raised in Kentucky, Francis came to St. Louis to continue his education. He served as mayor of St. Louis, governor of Missouri, Secretary of the Interior, President of the 1904 World's Fair, and ambassador to Russia. This collection of papers is from his gubernatorial term and includes letters requesting appointments, pardons, and more from the governor. Persons requesting an appointment often indicated why they felt qualified for a particular position; political favors are frequently cited. Some of this correspondence refers to the "Negro" vote and activities involved in assuring a particular vote from this political group, i.e. "I voted negros all day 'til the polls were closed."
The Archives' collection of gubernatorial papers for early twentieth century governors is limited; some collections are located at other repositories across the state.
Warren Hearnes, 1965-1973
Many documents in the Hearnes papers relate to civil rights activities around the state and across the nation. References to the NAACP, riots, and the Civil Rights Commission are included in the index to these papers. More than correspondence, the collection contains press releases, reports, appointments, and more. Several press releases refer to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968; one extends sympathy to his family, the other details an extradition request for James Earl Ray from London, England. Ray was an escapee from the Missouri State Penitentiary at the time of the assassination.