It has been nearly 160 years since the last time an elected Show-Me State governor exited office as quickly as Greitens

Embattled Missouri Republican Eric Greitens will resign from office on Friday, dogged since the onset of his administration by multiple charges stemming from an extramarital affair.

Greitens was only 42 when elected to the top office in the state and seemingly had a bright political future, but few Republicans in the executive and legislative branches gave him political cover as charges of blackmail, invasion of privacy, and assault unfolded over the next year.

The end result is that Greitens will leave office with the fourth shortest gubernatorial tenure among the 47 men elected to the office in Missouri since statehood – and the shortest in nearly 160 years – at 1 year, 4 months, 24 days.

Only three Show-Me State governors who were elected to the position had fewer days on the job than Greitens.

Frederick Bates, a Jeffersonian Republican who had previously served three different stints as acting governor of the Louisiana Territory (1807, 1809-1810, 1812-1813), was elected governor of Missouri in 1824 and served for eight months and 21 days before dying in office at the age of just 48.

The elected governor with the shortest tenure in state history is Democrat Trusten Polk.

Polk, an attorney and former St. Louis city counselor, won the 1856 election with a plurality of just 40.8 percent as American and Benton-Democratic (anti-slavery) nominees split the anti-Democratic vote.

Inside of a few weeks into his term, the state legislature elected Governor Polk to the U.S. Senate, where he served for nearly five years before his expulsion in 1862 for supporting the rebellion.

Polk served only 1 month, 23 days before resigning to become a U.S. Senator.

The only other Missourian to have a shorter tenure than Greitens is perhaps the state’s most notorious governor – former Democratic state legislator Claiborne Fox Jackson.

Jackson was elected in 1860 by 5.0 points over Constitutional Unionist Sample Orr with former Governor Hancock Jackson and former Whig Attorney General James Gardenhire also on the ballot as Breckenridge Democrat and Republican nominees respectively.

Claiborne Fox Jackson famously turned pro-secessionist after his election and refused President Abraham Lincoln’s request to provide troops for the Union in the Civil War.

State legislators did not back secession and on July 30, 1861 the Missouri State Convention vacated several state offices including that of governor and lieutenant governor.

Jackson was removed from office after just 6 months, 28 days.

When including those Missourians who were not elected governor but succeeded to the office, Greitens has the 10th shortest tenure in state history.

Six such governors served less than Greitens’ 16+ months:

  • Jeffersonian Republican Abraham Williams (1825-1826): 5 months, 17 days following the death of Frederick Bates
  • Democrat Meredith Marmaduke (1844): 9 months, 12 days following the death of Democrat Thomas Reynolds
  • Democrat Hancock Jackson (1857): 7 months, 26 days after Democrat Trusten Polk was elected to the U.S. Senate
  • Republican Willard Hall (1864-1865): 11 months, 3 days following the death of Unionist Hamilton Gamble
  • Democrat Albert Morehouse (1887-1889): 1 year, 18 days after the death of Democrat John Marmaduke
  • Democrat Roger Wilson (2000-2001): 2 months, 22 days following the death of Democrat Mel Carnahan

Former state legislator and Lieutenant Governor Mike Parson will be sworn into office as the state’s 57th governor following Greitens’ departure.

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  1. Nikoli Orr on June 1, 2018 at 12:37 am

    1. Trusten Polk: Perhaps he at least occasionally met with the COUNCILORS of (the great city of) Saint Louis to work through various problems, as needed??
    2. A good case may be made that outgoing Governor Greitens is being given what might be called the Al Franken treatment by his co-partisans; just as fellow US Senate DEMs have sacrificed Franken in order to increase the odds of a Senate election win (i.e. in mid-December of last year in the Yellowhammer State), fellow state GOPers are sacrificing Greitens in order to augment their chances of ejecting Senator Claire McCaskill from her seat later this year. Both moves were, ahem, painless, in that Franken’s state had/has a same-party governor who could fill the ensuing vacancy with an untarnished DFLer, and in that Greiten’s state has a same-party lieutenant governor who shall fill the newly vacated post – and who evidently would not be required to stand for a special gubernatorial election. (Damn the due process for the accuseds, indeed!)

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