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Powell Clayton

Gov. Powell Clayton

  • July 2, 1868 - March 17, 1871
  • Republican
  • August 7, 1833
  • August 25, 1914
  • Pennsylvania
  • Partridge Military Academy
  • Married Adaline McGraw; five children
  • Resigned
  • Senator
  • Army


POWELL CLAYTON, Arkansas’s ninth governor, was born in Bethel County, Pennsylvania, on August 7, 1833. He attended Partridge Military Academy in Bristol, Pennsylvania, and studied civil engineering at Wilmington, Delaware. In 1855 Clayton moved to Leavenworth, Kansas, where he was elected city engineer and surveyor in 1859. During the Civil War, he joined the Union army, served as captain of the First Kansas Infantry, and rose to the rank of brigadier general. Relocating to Arkansas after the war, Clayton crusaded for the adoption of the 1868 state constitution, which readmitted Arkansas to the Union. That same year he ran unopposed for the governor’s office, and on July 2, 1868 he was sworn into office. During his tenure in office, violence was escalating due to the organization of the Ku Klux Klan in April 1868. He proclaimed martial law in 11 counties and organized a black militia to restore order and hunt down members of the Ku Klux Klan. Clayton had many political enemies who tried numerous times to impugn his character and reputation. He was investigated by the U.S. Congress, and impeached by the Arkansas Legislature, but both times the charges were dropped. On January 11, 1871, Clayton was elected to the U.S. Senate, and on March 17, 1871, he resigned from the governor’s office. He served in the U.S. Senate for six years, and later became director of the Missouri and North Arkansas Railroad. He also built and managed the Eureka Springs Railway, and was the Ambassador to Mexico from 1897 to 1905. Powell Clayton died on August 25, 1914, in Washington D.C., and was buried at the Arlington National Cemetery with military honors.


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.

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