WILLIAM HENRY MURRAY, known as “Alfalfa Bill,” was born in Collinsville, Texas. After graduating from College Hill Institute in Springtown, Texas, he taught school and became a newspaper publisher. He also studied law privately and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1895. He moved to Tishomingo, Chickasaw Nation in 1898 and served as the Chickasaw Governor’s personal attorney. In 1905 he was a delegate to the Sequoyah Convention, which sought to establish an Indian state. He was also a delegate to the Oklahoma Constitutional Convention of 1906, a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 1907 and 1908 and its first speaker, and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1914 to 1918. He lost the Democratic gubernatorial primaries of 1910 and 1918 and later moved to Bolivia, where established an agricultural colony. Returning to Oklahoma in 1929, he mounted another campaign for governor, winning election in 1930. A candidate as well for President in 1932, he disliked Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal policies and as governor faced a $5 million deficit, massive foreclosures, and numerous bank failures during the Great Depression. However, he secured funds from the state legislature for aid to indigents and called for a National Council on Relief to study the problem. Also during his term as governor, the State Tax Commission was created to make taxes more equitable. Under the banner of states’ rights, Murray used the National Guard to enforce a bank moratorium and to maintain segregation. The Guard was also used to keep free bridges open across the Red River to Texas in defiance of a federal prohibition against the maintenance by states of free bridges that competed with privately-owned toll bridges. Murray also ordered oil wells shut down when purchasers ignored his demand for price restoration of oil whose price had dropped with overproduction. The resulting oil famine resulted in price increases. Although the 18th Amendment was repealed during Murray’s administration, Oklahoma remained a dry state. After leaving office, Murray returned to his farm in Johnston County. In 1942, he mounted an unsuccessful campaign to win the Democratic nomination for a U.S. Senate seat.
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 43. New York: James T. White & Company.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 3. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.
Father of Oklahoma Governor Johnston Murray