JAMES PHILIP EAGLE, Arkansas’s 16th governor, was born in Maury County, Tennessee, on August 10, 1837. His family moved to Arkansas where James was educated in the county schools. In 1859 he was appointed deputy sheriff of Prairie County. Eagle held this position until the start of the Civil War, when he enlisted as a private, and rose later to the rank of colonel. After the war, Eagle attended Mississippi College, but left, due to illness, never completing his first year. He entered politics as a member of the Arkansas Legislature, serving from 1873 to 1874, 1877 and 1885. In 1885, he served as speaker of the house. He also served as president of the Baptist State Convention from 1880 to 1904. Eagle was nominated by the Democratic State Convention for governor in 1888, and was elected in September. He was reelected to a second term in 1890. During his tenure, he advocated reform in the state penitentiary system, supported a progressive policy on immigration, and endorsed liberal support for education. After leaving office, Eagle continued being active in his work with the Southern Baptist churches. In 1902, he was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and twice was reelected. He also sat on the capital commission, but was fired by Governor Jeff Davis, after being charged with campaigning for one of the governor’s opponents. Governor James P. Eagle died of heart failure on December 20, 1904, in Little Rock. He is buried at the Mount Holly Cemetery, Little Rock, 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