Texas Governor Richard Coke:
An Inventory of Governor Richard Coke Records at the Texas State Archives, 1873-1877
The governor of Texas is the chief executive officer of the state elected by citizens every four years. The duties and responsibilities of the governor include serving as commander-in-chief of the state's military forces; convening special sessions of the legislature for specific purposes; delivering to the legislature at the beginning of each regular session a report on the condition of the state, an accounting of all public money under the governor's control, a recommended biennial budget, an estimate of the amounts of money required to be raised by taxation, and any recommendations he deems necessary; signing or vetoing bills passed by the legislature; and executing the laws of the state.
The office of the governor of the state of Texas was created by the Texas Constitution of 1845. It superseded the office of the president of the Republic of Texas upon the annexation of Texas by the United States. The 1845 Constitution defined the term of office as two years, with no more than four years served in a six-year period. The governor was required to be thirty years old at minimum, a U.S. citizen, and a Texas resident for at least three years (Article V, Section 4).
The Constitution outlined a number of powers held by the governor of Texas. The governor acted as the commander-in-chief of the army, navy, and militia of the state unless they were transferred into service under the federal government (Article V, Section 6). He could call up a state militia to "execute the laws of the State to suppress insurrections, and to repel invasions" (Article VI, Section 4). The governor made recommendations to the legislature and provided written information on the state of the government (Article V, Section 9). He could also convene the legislature when necessary and adjourn the legislature in the case of a disagreement between the House and Senate (Article V, Section 8). The governor had the power to grant reprieves and pardons in criminal cases except those of treason or impeachment, and to approve or disapprove bills, orders, resolutions, or votes from the legislature (Article V, Sections 11, 17 and 18). The governor also appointed supreme and district court judges and an attorney general with the consent of two-thirds of the Senate (Article IV, Sections 5 and 12).
The 1845 Constitution also created the office of secretary of state, appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate for the governor's term of service. The secretary of state worked closely with the governor, and was required to "keep a fair register of all official acts and proceedings of the governor" (Article V, Section 16). The Constitution called for the election of a lieutenant governor at the time of the governor's election with the same qualifications and term of office, but to be voted for separately by electors. The lieutenant governor served as president of the Senate and could cast a deciding vote in ties, as well as take on the governor's powers in his absence or until a new governor was elected and qualified or the previous governor was able to resume office (Article V, Section 12). In addition, it further called for the biennial election of a state treasurer and comptroller of public accounts by the legislature, with vacancies to be filled by the governor (Article V, Section 23). However, a constitutional amendment in 1850 allowed the public election of the state treasurer and comptroller.
The constitutional language defining the office of the governor changed marginally with the Texas Constitution of 1861, which was written when Texas seceded from the United States to join the Confederate States at the onset of the Civil War. The 1861 Constitution replaced mention of the United States with the Confederate States, removed a requirement for U.S. citizenship for Texas governors, raised the governor's salary, and set a date for the governor and lieutenant governor to take office after an election.
The Constitution of 1866 arose out of the Constitution of 1861 with certain amendments made during the Constitutional Convention of 1866. These amendments were intended to bring the Texas constitution back into compliance with United States law. The Constitution of 1866 made minor alterations to the office of the governor, extending his term of office to four years with no more than eight years served in a 12-year period, and increasing his salary to $4,000 annually. He was also granted the power of the item veto on appropriations and to convene the legislature outside of the state capital if necessary.
Another constitutional convention took place in 1868-1869 under the Reconstruction Acts of 1867, ultimately producing the Constitution of 1869. It affected the office of the governor by again raising the governor's salary, this time to $5,000 annually, and giving the governor the right to appoint the attorney general and secretary of state, with the other state offices being appointed by election. The Contitution of 1876 subsequently reverted the governor's salary to $4,000 annually and provided for the use and occupation of the governor's mansion, fixtures and furniture. In addition, all vacancies in state or district offices, except for members of the Legislature, were to be filled by appointment of the governor, with the advice and consent of two-thirds of the senate.
(Sources: Texas Constitution of 1845, Texas Constitution of 1861, Texas Constitution of 1866, and Texas Constitution of 1876, all online at the Tarlton Law Library; S.S. McKay, "Constitution of 1845", Walter L. Buenger, "Constitution of 1861", and S.S. McKay, "Constitution of 1866", Handbook of Texas Online, all accessed on June 27, 2014.)
Richard Coke, governor of Texas, held office from January 15, 1874 to December 1, 1876. Coke was born March 13, 1829 in Williamsburg, Virginia. He graduated from the College of William and Mary, and began practicing law before moving to Waco, Texas in 1850. In 1859 he was a member of a commission which removed the Brazos Reservation Indians to the Indian Territory. After serving in the Secession Convention of 1861, Coke rose in the ranks of the Confederate Army from private to captain. In 1865 he was appointed district judge, and in 1866 was elected Supreme Court associate justice, but was removed from that position by "military governor" General Philip Sheridan in 1867 as an "impediment to reconstruction."
In 1873, Coke won the governor's chair over E.J. Davis. Several tense days in January 1874 saw the state capitol turned into an armed camp, with two rival legislatures, as Davis refused to surrender his office. When President Ulysses S. Grant would not support Davis' request for troops, Davis conceded and Coke was inaugurated as governor. During Coke's term in office, he faced a state government that was in debt and without funds, an unprotected frontier, and problems with Indians as well as Mexican bandits. Coke reduced expenditures and made a new beginning of the public school system. He was re-elected in 1876 after the Constitution of 1876 returned the governor's term of office to two years. Later the same year, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, and resigned from the governorship on December 1, 1876. Coke served three terms in the Senate (1877-1895) and died in Waco, Texas on May 14, 1897.
(Source: John W. Payne, Jr., "Coke, Richard," Handbook of Texas Online, accessed on May 20, 2014.)
The governor of Texas is the chief executive officer of the state elected by citizens every four years. Richard Coke served as governor of Texas from January 15, 1874 to December 1, 1876. These records mainly document Governor Coke's term in office. Types of records include correspondence, proclamations, messages to the Texas Legislature, printed material, letterpress books, petitions, and reports, dating from 1873 to 1877. Letters include requests and recommendations for appointment to office and for pardon of convicts; reports on Mexican border problems, such as gangs of thieves crossing the Rio Grande; and discussions regarding school lands, railroads, violence, and the creation of ranger companies. Correspondence is with state and local officials, citizens of various counties, and newspaper editors.
Restrictions on Access
Materials do not circulate, but may be used in the State Archives search room. Materials will be retrieved from and returned to storage areas by staff members.
Restrictions on Use
Most records created by Texas state agencies are not copyrighted. State records also include materials received by, not created by, state agencies. Copyright remains with the creator. The researcher is responsible for complying with U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17 U.S.C.).
The letterpress volumes are extremely fragile and may not be photocopied.
(Identify the item), Texas Governor Richard Coke records. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Accession number: 2014/123
No accession information for these records was located. An accession number was assigned for control purposes on June 24, 2014.
Processed by State Archives staff, June 1984
Corrections and further encoding to TARO project standards by Tonia J. Wood, December 1995, March 2001
Finding aid converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by TARO using the conversion stylesheet v1to02.xsl, July 22, 2003
Re-foldering, re-housing and DACS-compliance by Aditi Worcester, May 2014
Detailed Description of the Records