Anselm McLaurin, the oldest of eight brothers and the father of ten children, was the last Confederate veteran to be elected governor of Mississippi. At the age of sixteen, he enlisted in the Third Mississippi Artillery and became well-known for his daring and bravery during the Civil War.
After his Confederate military service, McLaurin, who was born in Rankin County on March 26, 1848, opened a practice of law at Raleigh in Smith County. In 1871, he was elected district attorney. After serving one term, McLaurin moved back to Brandon and was elected to the state legislature from Rankin County. He and two of his brothers were delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1890. At the convention, McLaurin introduced a measure that would disfranchise any man convicted of wife abuse, but that provision was not adopted.
Following the death of U. S. Senator Edward C. Walthall in 1894, McLaurin was appointed to fill the remainder of his term. The next year, McLaurin ran for governor. He defeated Frank Burkitt, the Populist Party candidate.
When Governor McLaurin took office in 1896, the treasury was virtually depleted. He called a special session of the legislature to increase the ad valorem taxes and to authorize him to secure a loan to meet the state’s current financial obligations. Governor McLaurin also called a second special session of the legislature to consider the construction of a new state capitol. The state capitol had been built in 1839 and was in extremely poor condition. The legislature passed a bill authorizing a new building, but Governor McLaurin vetoed the measure because he considered the size and the design of the proposed new capitol to be unsuitable for the state’s needs.
During Governor McLaurin’s second year in office, Mississippi suffered a yellow fever epidemic which virtually closed the state capital. Almost ninety percent of the people evacuated the city of Jackson in the summer of 1898 and Governor McLaurin was forced to move to his home in Brandon where he conducted state business by telephone.
After completing his term as governor, McLaurin was elected to the United States Senate in 1900 in a campaign against Private John Allen of Tupelo, a congressman and one of Mississippi’s most popular politicians. McLaurin was re-elected to the U.S. Senate in 1906. While in the third year of his second term, McLaurin died at his home in Brandon on December 22, 1909.
David Sansing, Ph.D., is history professor emeritus, University of Mississippi.
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress (1950), 1545.
Mississippi Official and Statistical Register (1912), 79.
Rowland, Dunbar. Mississippi Comprising Sketches in Cyclopedic Form II. 188-191