Roster Of Impeached Governors Is Brief

Only seven governors in U.S. history have been removed from office after impeachment trials. Professor emeritus William Harris of North Carolina State University offers a timely history lesson in light of Gov. Rod Blagojevich's legal woes.

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REBECCA ROBERTS, host:

Well, all this talk about the precarious future of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich got us wondering just how unusual his situation is. It turns out only seven governors have been impeached and removed from office in U.S. history. The very first? William Holden of North Carolina in 1871. N.C. State University Professor Emeritus William Harris literally wrote the book on Holden, and he says the governor was impeached for suspending the writ of habeas corpus.

Dr. WILLIAM HARRIS (Professor Emeritus of History, North Carolina State University): He had suspended this to put down the Ku Klux Klan in two central North Carolina counties in 1870. And then when the opposition party, the Conservatives, gained control of the Legislature, then they moved forward and impeached him on the grounds that he had usurped the constitution of the state, and he was removed from office.

ROBERTS: This gubernatorial rogue's gallery also includes David Butler of Nebraska, and William Sulzer of New York. Both were removed for misappropriation of state funds. Arizona's Evan Mecham was the most recent member. He was convicted of obstruction of justice in 1988. In Texas, farmer Jim Ferguson was impeached in 1917 after an ugly political fight for control of the University of Texas. His most notable accomplishment might have been his replacement. His wife, Miriam "Ma" Ferguson, became Texas's first female governor.

And then there were two Oklahoma governors impeached in the 1920s. John Walton ordered the National Guard to disband the grand jury that was investigating him. And just six years later, Henry Johnston ordered the Guard to surround the state Capitol and keep the legislature from getting in. Not too many lessons learned for those guys.

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