OK did ya know? Impeached Governors


Posted on Thursday, September 21, 2006 02:23 PM by Exploring Oklahoma History
Back in September of 2004 there was news of Carol Fisher's impeachment by the Oklahoma House. This lead to a discussion with a co-worker about what impeachment meant. I was trying to convince him to impeach someone was to bring charges against them. I also was trying to convince him that then President Bill Clinton was impeached. His thinking was President Clinton wasn't impeached because he wasn't removed from office, and to impeach was to kick out of office.

I did a little research to hopefully prove my point.
Impeachment is the process by which a legislative body formally levels charges against a high official of government. Impeachment does not necessarily mean removal from office; it comprises only a formal statement of charges, akin to an indictment in criminal law, and thus forms only the first step towards removal. Once an individual is impeached, he or she must then face the possibility of conviction via legislative vote, which then entails the removal of the individual from office.
from Wikipedia
So far we have had two U.S. Presidents impeached: Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton.
Historical Note about Richard Nixon: The House of Representatives Judiciary Committee opened formal and public impeachment hearings against Nixon on May 9, 1974. Rather than face impeachment by the House of Representatives and a conviction by the Senate, he resigned, effective August 9, 1974.
from Wikipedia
But did you know we have had two Oklahoma Governors impeached? Jack C. Walton, 1923, and Henry S. Johnson, 1929.


Jack C. Walton
1923

Henry S. Johnson
1927 to 1929

The history surrounding John "Jack" C. Walton's impeachment is really fascinating.

In his short 10 month term, Jack Walton, spent state money lavishly, tried to reward his friends and to please his political enemies by awarding them government jobs, and he interfered with the administrations of University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma A&M. But besides all that, what he is noted for was for taking a stand against the Ku Klux Klan. (See also 1921 Tulsa Race Riots)
From State Biographical Note

Ku Klux Klan activity excessively increased during Walton’s term. He asserted that hostility towards him stemmed from the KKK. In fact, Walton placed Okmulgee County under martial law and Tulsa County likewise with the additional penalty of suspension of habeas corpus; the latter step forbade by state constitution. When an Oklahoma City grand jury prepared to investigate the governor’s office, Walton put the entire state under martial law on September 15, 1923 with "absolute martial law" applicable to the capital. Impeachment demands were rampant and legislative leaders responded with a call for special session. A petition was circulated, adopted and passed on October 2, which allowed the legislature to assemble on its own motion.

In an attempt to override the legislature Walton called a special session on October 11 to enact measurements against the Klan. The legislature refused the governor’s request and recessed until October 17 when they met in reply to the call of Speaker of the House, W. D. McBee. The house developed twenty-two charges against Walton and voted for impeachment. On October 23, Walton was suspended and Lieutenant Governor Martin E. Trapp became active governor. Tulsa house member Wesley E. Disney led the prosecution against Walton in the senate, which was presided over by the Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court. Eleven charges were sustained, including "illegal collection of campaign funds, padding the public payroll, suspension of habeas corpus, excessive use of the pardon power, and general incompetence." On November 19, 1923 Walton was convicted and removed permanently from office. The bitter factionalism that developed during Walton’s administration would remain a vivid memory for future gubernatorial administrations.
Henry S. Johnson's impeachment is equally fascinating, only because it looks to be more politically motivated than the Governor doing anything wrong.
From State Biographical Note

Johnston could have served out his term without additional legislative harassment, but his political doom was sealed with the presidential election of 1928. The Democrats selected Alfred Smith of New York for their presidential candidate. The fatal blow came when the governor campaigned across the state on Smith’s behalf. Smith had announced he was Catholic, and against prohibitionists and "religious bigots." The Republican candidate, Herbert Hoover, overwhelmingly took the office and the Republican party took several state offices including seats in the Supreme Court, a near majority in the lower House and substantial gains in the Senate. "Democratic Wrath" was heaped on Johnston and he was held responsible for the disaster.

When the legislature met again for its regular session in January 1929 a combination of Republicans and insurgent Democrats set in motion a second impeachment effort. Thirteen charges were presented to the Senate, eleven of which were accepted. Governor Johnston was suspended from office on January 21 and Lieutenant Governor William Holloway became acting governor. Johnston’s impeachment trial began February 6 and lasted 6 weeks. Finally on March 20, the governor’s ordeal ended with the Senate voting to remove him from office on the eleventh charge, that of general incompetency. He was acquitted of all others.
Johnson later returned as a Senator from 1933 to 1937.

More information: (Note: I originally posted this article at my blog in September 2004. I've updated it and corrected a few points for posting here. - K.)