RICHARD COKE was born in Williamsburg, Virginia and graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1849. After being admitted to the Bar the following year, he moved to Waco, Texas, opening a private law practice. He was also appointed to an Indian Commission by then-Governor Hardin R. Runnels to persuade the tribes to move to Indian Territory. During the Civil War he joined the Confederate Army, rising to the rank of Captain. He was appointed a district judge in 1864 and was elected to the Texas Supreme Court in 1866 but was removed by Major General Philip Sheridan the following year as an “impediment to reconstruction.” Although he defeated incumbent Edmund Davis in the gubernatorial election of 1873, Davis refused to leave office, declaring election law unconstitutional. Coke organized his own administration, however, which meant that for a brief time there were two state governments. When President Ulysses Grant declined to intervene in the dispute, Davis left office and Coke was re-inaugurated. During his administration, reconstruction came to an end in Texas, and a new state constitution was drafted and ratified by the people. Although he won a second term as governor, he was elected to the U.S. Senate and resigned from the state house. Coke went on to serve in the Senate until 1895, when he declined renomination. He died in Waco and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 9. New York: James T. White & Company.