Back to former California governors
John G. Downey

Gov. John G. Downey

  • January 14, 1860 - January 10, 1862
  • Democrat
  • June 24, 1827
  • March 1, 1894
  • Other
  • Married Maria Guirado
  • Succeeded


JOHN G. DOWNEY was born on June 24, 1827, in County Roscommon, Ireland. He was educated in the schools of Ireland, was a druggist by profession, and in 1849, he immigrated to California during the gold rush. Downey became a successful businessman with interests in real estate and cattle ranching. He prospered in Southern California, where the town of Downey is named after him. Downey entered politics in 1859 when he was elected lieutenant governor of California. Governor Milton S. Latham resigned from office on January 14, 1860, and Lieutenant Governor Downey assumed the governor’s office. During his tenure, work began on the capitol building in Sacramento, the Central Pacific Railroad Company of California was formed, and the first pony express rider reached San Francisco. Governor Downey vetoed the “bulkhead bill,” which would have allowed a monopoly ownership of San Francisco’s waterfront, and the first telegraph line was connected linking the East and the West Coasts. The Civil War started during Downey’s administration, and the legislature committed the state’s support to the Union. Downey left office on January 10, 1862, and returned to his business interests in Los Angeles County. Governor John G. Downey died on March 1, 1894, and is buried at the Holy Cross Cemetery, Colma, California.


Official Records: California State Archives

Image source: California State Library: Governors' Gallery

Governors of California 1849-2002

The Political Graveyard

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.

Recent California Governors