GEORGE CLEMENT PERKINS was born in Kennebunkport, Maine, on August 23, 1839. He ran away from home at the age of 12, and spent the next four years at sea. Arriving in California, Perkins worked in various odd jobs. By the age of 20, he was a successful businessman who had established himself as owner of a store that grossed $500,000 per year. Perkins’s other business interests included mining, farming, and construction ventures. He also was a partner of the Pacific Coast Steamship Company, which later purchased the Arctic Oil Company, the Oregon Railway, and Navigation Company, and the Pacific Steam Whaling Company. Perkins served on numerous boards, including the California Academy of Sciences, the San Francisco Art Association, and the California State Mining Bureau. He entered politics as a member of the California Senate, serving from 1869 to 1876. On September 3, 1879, he was elected governor, and on January 8, 1880, he was sworn into office. During his tenure, the State Normal School opened (which later became UCLA), and the University of Southern California was established. Perkins also pardoned numerous prisoners, personally interviewing each prisoner. A new state constitution developed during this time, reducing Perkins’s term of office to three years instead of four, and allowing for future gubernatorial elections to be held in even-numbered years. Perkins left office on January 10, 1883, and returned to his various businesses. In 1893, he was appointed to the U.S. Senate, serving until 1915. Governor George Perkins died on February 26, 1923, and is buried at the Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland, California.
Official Records: California State Archives
Image source: California State Library: Governors' Gallery
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 1, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.