JAMES HENDERSON BERRY, Arkansas’s 14th governor, was born in Jackson County, Alabama, on May 15, 1841. He moved with his family to Arkansas in 1848, where he was educated in local schools. He attended Berryville Academy for one year, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1866. Berry enlisted in the Confederate army, served as second lieutenant, was wounded, and lost his right leg in the battle of Corinth, Mississippi. After the war, Berry taught school and started a private law practice. He entered politics in 1866, when he was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives. He was reelected in 1872, and again in 1874, when he served as speaker. Berry was chosen to chair the Democratic State Convention in 1876, and two years later was elected to the bench of the Fourth Judicial Circuit, where he served until 1882. On September 4, 1882, he was elected governor of Arkansas, and on January 13, 1883, he was sworn into office. During his term, the state reduced its debt, short-term loans were repaid, and some bonds were retired. Also during his administration, the State Hospital for Nervous Disease was established, as well as the Arkansas Bar Association, and laws were passed modulating the state’s labor system. Berry did not run for reelection and left office on January 15, 1885. In March 1885, Berry was selected by the legislature to fill the vacancy created in the U.S. Senate when Senator Augustus Garland resigned. He occupied the Senate seat for the next 22 years. In 1909, he was appointed commissioner of the Arkansas History Commission (now called the Arkansas State Archives), and was given the assignment to mark all the graves of Confederate soldiers who had died in Union prisons in 1910. Berry completed this task in December 1912, and died the following January in his home in Bentonville, Arkansas. He is buried at the City Cemetery, Bentonville, Arkansas.
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.
Donovan, Timothy P., and Willard B. Gatewood, Jr., The Governors of Arkansas, Essays in Political Biography, Fayetteville; The University of Arkansas Press, 1981
Herndon, Dallas T., Centennial History of Arkansas, Vol. 1, Chicago, Little Rock, The S.J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1922. 3 vols.
Old State House Museum