Governor and Lieutenant Governor, Office of2018-04-14T13:26:26+00:00

Offices of Governor and Lieutenant Governor

Since achieving statehood in 1817, Mississippi has demonstrated a determined, independent streak and willingness to depart from national norms. This uniqueness is clear when considering the offices of governor and lieutenant governor. While the federal model and the model in many other states provide for a strong chief executive and a weak second in command, Mississippi embarked on a different path. Political scientists and interested observers routinely rank Mississippi’s governor as one of the nation’s weakest while describing the office of lieutenant governor as one of the most powerful. This contrast results from both deliberate choices and unintentional consequences, from political considerations and traditions that have evolved over almost two centuries.

Mississippi’s first constitutional convention reflected the wariness of strong executives that permeated the newly independent country. Determined to avoid the autocratic executives they opposed in the past, such as the British Crown and even the territorial governors appointed by the newborn United States, the delegates adopted a constitution limiting the governor to a single two-year term and providing the office with little control over appointments. Subsequent constitutions adopted by Mississippi in 1832, 1869, and 1890 continued the tradition of a weak governor.

The Constitution of 1890, which remains in effect, provides for a governor who performs the common duties of a chief executive, serves as commander in chief of the state militia or National Guard, grants pardons, and temporarily appoints people to fill vacancies until the next election. The governor is charged with enforcing the state’s laws but has little real authority to carry out this role. The constitution intentionally diffused executive power by creating independently elected executive officers such as lieutenant governor and attorney general who faced little or no term limits. Much of the Mississippi bureaucracy has more recently come under the control of seven other independently elected statewide officials, six elected commissioners for public utilities and transportation, and more than 130 largely independent boards and commissions. However, legal action and the personal political skills of recent governors have begun to increase the powers of the office.

In 1983 the Mississippi Supreme Court declared that the large number of legislators serving on the boards and commissions of executive agencies was an unconstitutional violation of separation of powers. The legislature passed a major 1984 reorganization of the executive branch that among other things gave the governor exclusive power to propose the annual executive budget. In 1986 citizens adopted a constitutional amendment allowing governors to serve two consecutive terms, giving governors much more leverage since they have more time to make appointments to agency governing boards.

Governors historically assumed a passive stance toward legislating and day-to-day government operations but more recently have pursued a more aggressive approach. Their tools include the item veto, the two-thirds vote required to override a veto, and the power to call special sessions of the legislature and to set the agenda. Television and social media networking have greatly increased the governor’s power to appeal directly to the people for policy changes.

The advent of the competitive two-party system in Mississippi has enabled the governor to use party discipline when dealing with the legislature. When the Democrats were the only party of note in Mississippi, geographical, racial, and other factions existed and political party discipline did not. The rebirth of the state’s Republican Party introduced a new dynamic into the relationship between the governor and legislature.

Mississippi’s lieutenant governorship was not intentionally designed to be one of the nation’s most powerful but evolved as such. Much of this power can be credited to the fact that the lieutenant governor is elected independently of the governor, to the original lack of term limits, and to the traditional rules of the State Senate, which are not enshrined in the constitution itself. The lieutenant governor is president of the Senate, can vote in case of a tie, assigns bills to committees and largely sets the agenda, and appoints committees and their chairs. The lieutenant governor also becomes governor when the governor travels out of the state. Some controversy has resulted from this provision when lieutenant governors acting as governors have called special sessions of the legislature or pardoned criminals without the sitting governors’ consent. The Mississippi Senate does not use a seniority system for committee assignments similar to Congress, so the lieutenant governor is free to leverage assignments for assistance with public policy goals. One of the few checks on the office’s power was the 1992 adoption of a constitutional amendment limiting the office to two terms.

Mississippi Governors

  • David Holmes, 1817–20
  • George Poindexter, 1820–22
  • Walter Leake, 1822–25
  • Gerard Chittocque Brandon, 1825–26
  • David Holmes, 1826
  • Gerard Chittocque Brandon, 1826–32
  • Abram M. Scott, 1832–33
  • Charles Lynch, 1833
  • Hiram G. Runnels, 1833–35
  • John Anthony Quitman, 1835–36
  • Charles Lynch, 1836–38
  • Alexander Gallatin McNutt, 1838–42
  • Tilghman Mayfield Tucker, 1842–44
  • Albert Gallatin Brown, 1844–48
  • Joseph W. Matthews, 1848–50
  • John Anthony Quitman, 1850–51
  • John Isaac Guion, 1851
  • James Whitfield, 1851–52
  • Henry Stuart Foote, 1852–54
  • John Jones Pettus, 1854
  • John J. McRae, 1854–57
  • William McWillie, 1857–59
  • John Jones Pettus, 1859–63
  • Charles Clark, 1863–65
  • William Lewis Sharkey, 1865
  • Benjamin G. Humphreys, 1865–68
  • Adelbert Ames, 1868–70
  • James Lusk Alcorn, 1870–71
  • Ridgley Ceylon Powers, 1871–74
  • Adelbert Ames, 1874–76
  • John Marshall Stone, 1876–82
  • Robert Lowery, 1882–90
  • John Marshall Stone, 1890–96
  • Anselm Joseph McLaurin, 1896–1900
  • Andrew Houston Longino, 1900–1904
  • James Kimble Vardaman, 1904–8
  • Edmond Favor Noel, 1908–12
  • Earl Leroy Brewer, 1912–16
  • Theodore Gilmore Bilbo, 1916–20
  • Lee Maurice Russell, 1920–24
  • Henry Lewis Whitfield, 1924–27
  • Dennis Murphree, 1927–28
  • Theodore Gilmore Bilbo, 1928–32
  • Martin S. Conner, 1932–36
  • Hugh Lawson White, 1936–40
  • Paul Burney Johnson Sr., 1940–43
  • Dennis Murphree, 1943–44
  • Thomas Lowry Bailey, 1944–46
  • Fielding L. Wright, 1946–52
  • Hugh Lawson White, 1952–56
  • James Plemon Coleman, 1956–60
  • Ross Robert Barnett, 1960–64
  • Paul Burney Johnson Jr., 1964–68
  • John Bell Williams, 1968–72
  • William Lowe Waller Sr., 1972–76
  • Charles Clifton Finch, 1976–80
  • William Forrest Winter, 1980–84
  • William A. Allain, 1984–88
  • Raymond Edwin Mabus Jr., 1988–92
  • Daniel Kirkwood Fordice, 1992–2000
  • David Ronald Musgrove, 2000–2004
  • Haley Reeves Barbour, 2004–12
  • Dewey Phillip Bryant, 2012–
  • Lieutenant Governors
  • Duncan Steward, 1817–20
  • James Patton, 1820–22
  • David Dickson, 1822–24
  • Gerard Chittocque Brandon, 1824–26
  • Abram M. Scott, 1828–32
  • Fountain Winston, 1832
  • Charles Lynch, 1833–34
  • P. Briscoe, 1834–36
  • W. Van Norman, 1836–37
  • Alexander G. McNutt, 1837–38
  • A. L. Bingaman, 1838–40
  • G. B. Augustus, 1840–42
  • Jesse Speight, 1842–43
  • A. Fox, 1843–44
  • Jesse Speight, 1844–46
  • G. T. Swan, 1846–48
  • Dabney Lipscomb, 1848–51
  • James Whitfield, 1851–54
  • John J. Pettus, 1854–58
  • James Drane, 1858–65
  • John M. Simonton, 1865–69
  • Ridgley Ceylon Powers, 1870–71
  • Alexander K. Davis, 1871–76
  • John M. Stone, 1876–78
  • William H. Sims, 1878–82
  • G. D. Shands, 1882–90
  • M. M. Evans, 1890–96
  • J. H. Jones, 1896–1900
  • James T. Harrison, 1900–1904
  • John Prentiss Carter, 1904–8
  • Luther Manship, 1908–12
  • Theodore Gilmore Bilbo, 1912–16
  • Lee Maurice Russell, 1916–20
  • Homer H. Casteel, 1920–24
  • Dennis Murphree, 1924–27
  • Clayton B. Adams, 1928–32
  • Dennis Murphree, 1932–36
  • Jacob Buehler Snider, 1936–40
  • Dennis Murphree, 1940–43
  • Fielding L. Wright, 1944–46
  • Samuel Edgerton Lumpkin, 1948–52
  • Carroll Gartin, 1952–60
  • Paul B. Johnson Jr., 1960–64
  • Carroll Gartin, 1964–66
  • Charles L. Sullivan, 1968–72
  • William F. Winter, 1972–76
  • Evelyn Gandy, 1976–80
  • Brad J. Dye Jr., 1980–92
  • Eddie Jerome Briggs, 1992–96
  • David Ronald Musgrove, 1996–2000
  • Amy Tuck, 2000–2008
  • Dewey Phillip Bryant, 2008–12
  • Jonathon Tate Reeves, 2012–

Further Reading

  • Dana B. Brammer and John W. Winkle, eds., A Contemporary Analysis of Mississippi’s Constitutional Government: Proceedings of a Forum, May 2–3, 1986 (1986)
  • Dale Krane and Stephen D. Shaffer, Mississippi Government and Politics: Modernizers versus Traditionalists (1992)
  • Thomas E. Kynerd, Administrative Reorganization of Mississippi Government: A Study in Politics (1978)
  • Jere Nash and Andy Taggart, Mississippi Politics: The Struggle for Power, 1976–2006 (2006)
  • John W. Winkle, The Mississippi State Constitution: A Reference Guide (1993)

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Offices of Governor and Lieutenant Governor
  • Author
  • Keywords Offices of Governor and Lieutenant Governor
  • Website Name Mississippi Encyclopedia
  • URL
  • Access Date December 14, 2018
  • Publisher Center for Study of Southern Culture
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 14, 2018