JAMES K. VARDAMAN, the thirty-sixth governor of Mississippi, was born in Jackson County, Texas on July 26, 1861. His early education was attained in the public schools of Mississippi, where his family moved to in 1868. He studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1882, and then established his legal career in Winona, Mississippi. He became the editor of the Winona Advance in 1883 and edited the Greenwood Enterprise from 1890 to 1896. He also was instrumental in launching the Greenwood Commonwealth in 1896. During the Spanish-American War, he served in Cuba as captain and then major of the 5th Regiment of U.S. Volunteers. Vardaman first entered politics as a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives, a position he held from 1890 to 1894. He also served as speaker of the house in 1894. After two unsuccessful gubernatorial bids in 1895 and 1899, Vardaman was elected governor by a popular vote on November 3, 1903, becoming the first governor elected under the state’s new primary law. During his tenure, a textbook commission was formed; a new code of law was sanctioned; Lamar County was founded; the convict lease system was eliminated; a permanent capitol commission was established; and two new agricultural testing stations were implemented. Vardaman completed his term and left office on January 21, 1908. He later was elected to the U.S. Senate, a position he held from 1913 to 1919. After running unsuccessfully for reelection to the U.S. Senate, Vardaman retired from political life. Governor James K. Vardaman passed away on June 25, 1930 and was buried in the Lakewood Memorial Park in Jackson, Mississippi.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 2, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.