John J. Pettus

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John J. Pettus
John J. Pettus.jpg
23rd Governor of Mississippi
In office
November 21, 1859 – November 16, 1863
Preceded by William McWillie
Succeeded by Charles Clark
President of the Mississippi Senate
In office
Preceded by Unknown
Succeeded by Unknown
Governor of Mississippi
In office
January 5, 1854 – January 10, 1854
Preceded by Henry S. Foote
Succeeded by John J. McRae
Member of the Mississippi Senate
from Neshoba and Kemper counties
In office
Preceded by Emanuel Durr
Succeeded by Isaac Enloe
Member of the
Mississippi House of Representatives
from Kemper County
In office
Serving with Lewis Stovall 1844–1845
Preceded by Vacant
Succeeded by Oswell Neely,
Lumpkin Garrett
Personal details
Born John Jones Pettus
(1813-10-09)October 9, 1813
Wilson County, Tennessee
Died January 28, 1867(1867-01-28) (aged 53)
Pulaski County (present-day
Lonoke County), Arkansas
Cause of death Pneumonia
Resting place Flat Bayou Cemetery,
Jefferson County, Arkansas
34°21′31.8″N 91°52′09.2″W / 34.358833°N 91.869222°W / 34.358833; -91.869222
Political party Democratic
  • Permelia Winston Pettus
    (m. 18371857)
  • Susan Potts Pettus
    (m. 18611867)
Relations Edmund Pettus (brother)
Military service
Allegiance  Confederate States
Service/branch Mississippi Militia
Years of service 1864–1865
Rank Confederate States of America Colonel.png Colonel
Battles/wars American Civil War

John J. Pettus (born John Jones Pettus; October 9, 1813 – January 28, 1867) was an American politician who served as the 23rd Governor of Mississippi from 1859 to 1863. Prior to being elected in his own right to full gubernatorial terms in 1859 and 1861, Pettus served as the Acting Governor from January 5 to 10, 1854, following the resignation of Henry S. Foote. A member of the Democratic Party, Pettus had previously been a state representative, a member and President of the Mississippi Senate. He strongly supported Mississippi's secession from the Union in 1861 and sought cooperation with the government of the Confederate States.[1]

Early life[edit]

John J. Pettus was born on October 9, 1813 in Wilson County, Tennessee, to John Jones, a farmer, and Alice Taylor (née Winston) Pettus, his wife. He was raised in Limestone County, Alabama, after his father moved the family to Tennessee. Only nine when his father died, Pettus helped out with chores and was educated at home by his mother. Pettus settled in Mississippi in 1835. After a brief stay in Sumter County, Alabama, where he studied law, he opened a law practice in Scooba, Mississippi, where in the 1840s he married a cousin, Permelia Winston. He became a successful farmer and by 1850 owned 1,600 acres (647 ha) and 24 slaves.[1]

Political career[edit]

In 1844, Pettus represented Kemper County in the Mississippi House of Representatives. In 1848, he was elected to the Mississippi Senate.[2] In 1853, while Governor Henry S. Foote was waiting for the January 11 inauguration of John J. McRae, Foote grew bitter and angry, addressing the legislative session by announcing that he had considered resigning in protest once the election results came in.[3] At noon at January 5, 1854, Foote's resignation was received by the state senate.[3]

The Mississippi Constitution of 1832 had abolished the office of lieutenant governor. Pettus, as President of the State Senate, was next in seniority and was sworn at noon on January 7, 1854.[3] He held the governorship until McRae was sworn in on January 10, 1854.[4] His only recorded act during these 120 hours was to order a special session in Noxubee County to fill the office of a deceased state representative, Francis Irby.[3] On January 11, McRae was inaugurated as Governor and Pettus returned as senate president.[3] During the 1850s, he became identified as "the Mississippi Fire-eater," a term referring to Southerners supporting secession.[2]

In 1859, he was elected Governor. In his inaugural address, he said that the south's only way to maintain slavery was secession and called for the establishment of a southern confederacy.[2] Following President Abraham Lincoln's election, on November 26, 1860, Pettus called for a Special Session of the Legislature and urged the Legislature to call for a convention to withdraw Mississippi from the Union.[5] The Legislature called for a Secession Convention which convened in Jackson on January 7, 1861.[6] Two days later, Mississippi officially seceded from the Union. On February 4, 1861, along with five other slave states, the Confederate States of America was established at Montgomery, Alabama.[2] Pettus was re-elected in the fall of 1861.[4] Pettus was succeeded by Charles Clark.[6]

Later life[edit]

Ineligible under the Mississippi Constitution to run for a third term, Pettus was commissioned a colonel in the state militia.[7] In September 1865 he took the oath of allegiance to the United States government, but failed on three separate occasions to receive a presidential pardon. After the war, he relocated to Pulaski County (present-day Lonoke County), Arkansas. Pettus died on January 28, 1867, of pneumonia and is buried in the Flat Bayou Cemetery, Jefferson County, Arkansas.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Garraty, John A.; Carnes, Mark C., eds. (1999). American National Biography. 17. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 414–415 – via American Council of Learned Societies. 
  2. ^ a b c d Sansing, David G. (December 2003). "John Jones Pettus: Twentieth and Twenty-third Governor of Mississippi: January 5, 1854 to January 10, 1854; 1859-1863". Mississippi Historical Society. Archived from the original on December 8, 2015. Retrieved September 25, 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Dubay, Robert W. (1975). John Jones Pettus, Mississippi fire-eater. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 16. ISBN 9781617033537. 
  4. ^ a b John J. Pettus at the National Governors Association
  5. ^ Mississippi. Dept. of Archives and History (1904). The Official and Statistical Register of the State of Mississippi. p. 128. Retrieved June 8, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Lowry, Robert; McCardle, William H. (1891). A History of Mississippi: From the Discovery of the Great River by Hernando DeSoto, Including the Earliest Settlement Made by the French Under Iberville, to the Death of Jefferson Davis [1541-1889]. Mississippi: R.H. Henry & Company. p. 341. Retrieved June 8, 2014. 
  7. ^ Rowland, Dunbar (1978) [1st pub. MDAH:1908]. Military History of Mississippi, 1803-1898: Taken From the Official and Statistical Register of the State of Mississippi, 1908. with a new index by H. Grady Howell, Jr. Spartanburg, S.C.: Reprint Co. p. 540. ISBN 978-0-87152-266-5. LCCN 78-2454. 

Further reading[edit]

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