Earl Leroy Brewer: Thirty-eighth Governor of Mississippi: 1912-1916

by David Sansing / August 2004

Governor Earl Brewer’s inauguration was an unusually festive occasion and attracted the largest crowd in the state's history up to that time. Railroad companies offered reduced rates and thousands of people came to Jackson from all over the state. There was an enormous parade and a public reception at the New Capitol which was followed by a gala inaugural ball at the Stag Club.

Earl Brewer, the first graduate of the University of Mississippi Law School to be elected governor, was born in Carroll County, Mississippi, on August 11, 1869. After completing the regular two-year law course in less than one year, Brewer opened a law office at Water Valley in 1892. One of his most famous clients was the widow of Casey Jones, the legendary railroad man. Brewer represented Mrs. Jones in her out-of-court settlement with the Illinois Central Railroad.

Brewer represented Yalobusha County in the Mississippi Senate from 1896 to 1900, and in 1902 was appointed district attorney for the eleventh judicial district. After receiving that appointment, he moved to Clarksdale. In 1907 Brewer ran for governor, but was narrowly defeated in a run-off election.

In 1911 Brewer again ran for governor and achieved a unique distinction in Mississippi political history. He ran unopposed in the Democratic Party primary. That is the only occasion since the enactment of the primary law that the Democratic nominee has run unopposed. In the general election, Brewer easily defeated S. W. Rose, the Socialist candidate, who received only 2,049 votes.

Shortly after Governor Brewer took office, the legislature passed House Concurrent Resolution Number 65 authorizing the use of trustees from the state penitentiary to work in the Governor’s Mansion. That system continued for many years, and the rate of recidivism among inmates who worked at the mansion was extremely low.

While in office, Governor Brewer continued to promote the progressive reforms of his immediate predecessors. During his administration the constitutional amendment establishing an elective judiciary was implemented, a consolidated board of trustees for institutions of higher learning was created, several banking laws were passed, and the Bureau of Vital Statistics was established.

After he left office in January 1916, Governor Brewer continued his law practice in Clarksdale. In 1924 he ran for the U. S. Senate, but was defeated by Senator Pat Harrison. Following that defeat, Governor Brewer retired from public life. He died on March 10, 1942.

David Sansing, Ph.D., is history professor emeritus, University of Mississippi.

Lesson Plan

  • Earl L. Brewer
    Earl L. Brewer (1869-1942), Thirty-eighth Governor, 1912-1916. Courtesy, Mississippi Department of Archives and History.


Jackson Daily News, January 14, 1912, on Brewer's inauguration.

Kelly, Thomas E. Who’s Who in Mississippi, 4.

Mississippi Official and Statistical Register (1917), 321-322.

Mooney, C.P.J. The Mid-South and Its Builders (T. W. Biggs Co. 1920), 398.

WPA Source Papers, Coahoma County.