In July 1894, Governor John Marshall Stone, who was inaugurated as governor on three separate occasions, and served as governor longer than any other man in Mississippi history, was arrested by Secret Service agents for counterfeiting the currency of the United States. The accusation of counterfeiting resulted from the fact that the state of Mississippi had issued a special state warrant that was similar in color, size, shape, and appearance to United States currency. The federal agents had acted in haste and the charges were later dropped, but Governor Stone was infuriated by what he called “a most outrageous proceeding.”
Stone was born in Milan, Tennessee, on April 30, 1830. After teaching school in his native state for several years, he moved to Eastport, a village near Iuka in old Tishomingo County. Before the Civil War, Stone was the station agent for the Mississippi and Ohio Railroad at Iuka and returned to that position after the Civil War.
In 1869, Stone, a Democrat, was elected to the Mississippi Senate and served continuously until 1876. When Governor Ames resigned in 1876, Stone was president pro tempore. Because Lieutenant Governor Alexander K. Davis had already been impeached and removed from office, Stone was next in the line of succession and became governor on March 29, 1876.
In the bitter political climate of 1877, the Republican Party did not nominate a candidate for governor. Consequently, Governor Stone was re-elected governor by the astounding margin of 97,729 votes to 47. The state’s Reconstruction constitution, which had been adopted in 1869, lengthened the governor’s term to four years and allowed the governor to succeed himself. That provision made Governor Stone’s first period of service six years – the two years of Ames’s unexpired term and the four-year term to which he was elected in 1877.
In 1889, Stone was again elected governor by a vote of 84,929 to l6. During the first year of his second term the state adopted a new constitution. Through a carefully designed set of voting requirements, which included a poll tax and a literacy qualification, the 1890 Constitution perpetuated a one-party system and racial segregation.
The 1890 Constitution continued the four-year term, but did not allow the governor to succeed himself. The constitution also created several new executive departments. The heads of those departments were independent of the governor and were also elected to four-year terms. To allow for a smooth transition from the old to the new constitution, the terms of all public officials were extended for two years. Thus, Governor Stone served another six-year period from 1890 to 1896.
After he left office, Governor Stone was named president of the Mississippi Agricultural and Mechanical College at Starkville which had been established during his first administration in 1878. He served until his death on March 26, 1900. Stone County is named in honor of Governor Stone.
David Sansing, Ph.D., is history professor emeritus, University of Mississippi.
Mississippi Official and Statistical Register (1912), 77.
Rowland, Dunbar. Mississippi Comprising Sketches in Cyclopedic Form II. 735-746.