On 3 February 1851 authorities arrested Gov. John A. Quitman in Jackson and took him to New Orleans to be arraigned for violating American neutrality laws in relation to his dealings with Cuban insurgents. When the Jackson Mississippian and State Gazette announced that Quitman had resigned and that John Isaac Guion had assumed the governor’s office, the editor hailed the new governor as “a true Southron in heart and head.”
Guion, who was born in Adams County on 18 November 1802, was one of antebellum Mississippi’s most notable lawyers. After studying law in Lebanon, Tennessee, Guion opened a practice in Vicksburg with William Sharkey, a classmate at Lebanon. After Sharkey was elected to the state supreme court, Guion formed a partnership with Seargent S. Prentiss.
From 1842 to 1846 Guion represented Warren County in the state legislature. In 1846 he moved to Jackson, and two years later he was elected to represent the city in the State Senate. (In antebellum Mississippi several large cities elected representatives to the legislature.) Guion, a strong supporter of states’ rights, played a prominent role in the Jackson Convention of 1849, which was called to discuss the South’s response to the possibility of California’s admission to the Union as a free state.
When Quitman resigned in February 1851, Senate president Dabney Lipscomb of Columbus was seriously ill and unable to perform his duties; Guion was president pro tempore of the Senate. Consequently, when the office of governor became vacant, Guion became governor, serving until his Senate term expired on 4 November.
In the general election Guion had not run for reelection to the Senate and instead had been elected a circuit judge. Since the term of the Speaker of the House had also expired with the 4 November general election, there was no one in the line of succession as established by the constitution of 1832. The office of governor, therefore, remained vacant until 24 November.
Guion assumed his judgeship and remained on the Mississippi bench until his death in Jackson on 6 June 1855.
- Mississippi Official and Statistical Register (1912)
- Dunbar Rowland, Encyclopedia of Mississippi History, vol. 1 (1907)