Dennis Herron Murphree served as Mississippi’s governor on two separate occasions but was never elected to the office. Murphree won the position of lieutenant governor in 1923, 1931, and 1939 and held the post when two of the state’s chief executives died—Henry Whitfield in 1927 and Paul B. Johnson Sr. in 1943. Murphree ran for governor as the incumbent in 1927 but lost, as he did when he ran while holding the lieutenant governorship in 1935 and 1943.
Murphree was born in Calhoun County on 6 January 1886. At age twenty-five he was elected to represent his home county in the state legislature, winning reelection in 1915 and 1919. As a legislator and later as governor, Murphree was one of the state’s strongest advocates of the “pay-as-you-go” system of state finances, and he was instrumental in passing the law requiring Mississippi to balance its budget.
During his first term as lieutenant governor, Murphree and several businessmen, educators, and other leaders developed the “Know Mississippi Better” train. From 1925 to 1948 the specially equipped train traveled through three hundred cities in forty-seven states, Canada, and Mexico, showcasing Mississippi products and resources and advertising the state.
Shortly before Whitfield’s death, Murphree announced that he would seek reelection as lieutenant governor. However, after he ascended to the governorship, his friends and supporters convinced him not to seek the state’s second-highest office while holding its highest office, so he chose to run for governor but lost to Theodore Bilbo.
Murphree won another term as lieutenant governor in 1931 and again tried for the governorship in 1935, finishing third in the Democratic primary behind Johnson and Hugh L. White, who won the runoff and the office. Four years later, Murphree retook the post of lieutenant governor, positioning himself for another bid for the state’s top office. However, he came in third in the 1943 Democratic primary, trailing Martin S. Conner and Thomas L. Bailey, who took the runoff on 24 August and the general election the following November.
However, Johnson, the incumbent governor, died on 26 December, leaving Murphree to serve the remainder of the term until Bailey’s inauguration on 18 January 1944. Murphree then retired from public life, and he died in Jackson on 9 February 1949.
- Jackson Daily News (20 March 1927)
- William D. McCain, Journal of Mississippi History (October 1950)
- Mississippi Official and Statistical Register (1924–28)