In this episode I talk about the impeachment of Oklahoma Governors Jack C. Walton and Henry S. Johnson. As well as give a civics lesson on what it takes to impeach and remove someone from office. Welcome to Blog Oklahoma.
It seems during every political season the topic of impeachment just shows up. I guess this time it can't be helped in this era of strong political division. And all the scandals and investigations surrounding our current sitting President doesn't help either.
For me though, the first thing that usually pops into my head when I hear someone say "impeachment them" is "what for?" Just because you don't like someone in office means they've done anything that would prompt impeachment proceedings or there is even the political will to make that happen. And my next thought would be "do you understand Impeachment is not the removal from office." Well, because it's not.
I usually keep these thoughts to myself. I don't have time or desire to get into a political argument at the office, store, or muttering to myself while sitting on the couch because some talking head said it on the news. Okay maybe I do that last one.
On a federal level, impeachment just means formal charges are brought against an official of the government by the House of Representatives. It's similar to an indictment in criminal law. It does not mean the removal from office. It's the start of the process, but not the removal itself. After these charges are bought by the House, a trial is held in the Senate. It's the outcome of this trial, that can lead to removal from office.
Impeachment is found in Article II (2) Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution.
"The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."
According to Wikipedia the U.S. House of Representatives has initiated impeachment proceedings only 64 times since 1789. Only two U.S. Presidents have been impeached. Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Neither were removed from office.
Small historical side note: A lot of people miss-remember this. President Richard Nixon was never impeached. He resigned in 1974 before the full House could vote on it.
The State of Oklahoma has a similar procedure for impeachment and removal from office. You'll find it in Article VIII (8) in the State of Oklahoma's Constitution.
Oh if you ever get a chance please read through the State's Constitution. It's a unique read to say the least. Anyway.
To be impeached in Oklahoma, Article 8 Section 1 reads in part:
"The Governor and other elective state officers, including the Justices of the Supreme Court, shall be liable and subject to impeachment for wilful neglect of duty, corruption in office, habitual drunkenness, incompetency, or any offense involving moral turpitude committed while in office. All elected state officers, including Justices of the Supreme Court and Judges of the Court of Criminal Appeals, shall be automatically suspended from office upon their being declared guilty of a felony by a court of competent jurisdiction ..."
The rest of the section goes on about forfeiture of pay and which judge can sit on the trial. There are 6 section under Article 8 all having to do with removal from office. I'll have links to all of this if you want to read about it.
Oklahoma has only impeached two Governors, and the history behind them is actually kind of interesting.
The first Governor to be impeached and removed from office was Governor Jack C. Walton in 1923. John Calloway "Jack" Walton was the 5th Governor of Oklahoma. He was inaugurated on January 9, 1923 and removed from office on November 19, 1923.
In the years following the Tulsa Race Riot in 1921, a real deep scar in Oklahoma's history, the racist group known as the Ku Klux Klan grew in power in the state. In order to crack down on the Klan's activities, Governor Walton declared martial law in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, and Tulsa Counties. He went a step further in Tulsa County by suspending the writ of habeas corpus which is illegal in Oklahoma's Constitution.
The writ of habeas corpus is used to challenge the legality of someone's detention by the police in court.
Well that didn't sit well with the State Legislature and those in political power, and a whole mess of political and legal things happened. In October the House voted to impeach him with 22 charges, and in November the Senate convicted him of 11 of those charges including the suspension of habeas corpus and general incompetence.
Now granted I just gave you some of the highlights of that history, there is much much more to the story of Governor Jack C. Walton and i encourage you to look into it.
Now the next Governor to be impeached and removed from office was Governor Henry S. Johnson in 1929. Henry Simpson Johnston was the 7th Governor of Oklahoma. He was inaugurated on January 10, 1927 and removed from office on March 21, 1929.
To me this one really stands out for a couple of reasons. One the legislature tried to impeach him twice. On the second try they succeeded, but it appears, to me anyways, as political removal.
The first time in 1927, there was a scandal with Governor Johnston’s private secretary Mamie Hammonds. She was acting as a gatekeeper and appeared to have more influence with the Governor that many lawmakers didn't like. So they tried to impeach the Governor for neglect of office. The problem here, the Legislature tried to hold a special session for impeachment proceedings. Before they could they were blocked by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. You see only the Governor can call a special session.
Okay let's advance a few months to the end of 1928. It's a Presidential election year. Governor Johnson put his full support and campaigns for the Democratic nominee Al Smith. Republican Herbert Hoover won in a landslide and swept in a near Republican majority in the Oklahoma House and gained more seats in the Oklahoma Senate and Oklahoma Supreme Court.
As soon as the State Legislature met in regular session in 1929, both Democrats and Republicans brought forth new impeachment charges. On January 21st the Governor was suspended from office, and in a six week trial was removed from office for general incompetence on March 20th.
Both Governors Walton and Johnson continued to have political careers after they were removed from office. Jack Walton would later run for U.S. Senate and for Governor again. He was elected to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. Henry Johnson would run and win a term in the Oklahoma State Senate.
Well there you have it. More information about impeachment and removal from office than you probably wanted to know. If you would like to read up on Governor's Walton and Johnson or just want to know more about removing someone from office, I'll have links to all of this in the show notes at blogoklahoma.net.
Okay speaking of removing someone from office. There is one way you personally can help unseat them, and that is to go vote. If you don't bother to go vote, you get the government other people have picked for you. Your one vote does matter. It might not seem like it at times, but it's true. Many elections have been decided by one vote.
A very important date in Oklahoma is coming up and that's is the June 26th primary election. Primary elections typically have low voter turnout, especially in non presidential election years. This needs to change. This year there will be a state question on the primary ballot. They purposefully put the question on this ballot because of the typical low voter turnout. So even if you don't have a primary to vote in, you still need to head to the polls on June 26th.
If you're still not registered to vote yet, you have until June 1st. That's the deadline. If you're not registered by then, you can't vote in the Primary election. Registering to vote in Oklahoma is very easy. You can pick up a registration form from your local library, post office, tag agency, or at the county elections board. You can even download the form from the Oklahoma State Elections Board's website at ok.gov/elections . Just print it out, fill it out, mail it in, and your done. In a few days you'll get a voter ID card in the mail. Here's the great thing about that voter ID card, it can be used as your ID when you go vote. That's right, if you don't have a driver's license that little bit of paper can be your ID when you go vote. It's the law.
Go register to vote. It's easy and will only take a moment of your time. Please visit ok.gov/elections for more information.
Well we had another successful refrigerator buffet month. If you're new here, every February our family takes the opportunity to eat up any leftovers in the fridge or frozen meals that might have sunk to the bottom of our chest freezer. All while not going out to eat or going to the store for the month except for any fresh items we may have run out of like milk. Not only does this help clean out the fridge and freezer, it saves us a little money during the short pay period of February.
And it's a good thing we did. We've already done our taxes and OUCH. That's an expense we weren't expecting. Pretty bad when there's a comma in the number you owe. Ha! I laugh so I won't cry.
So have you done your taxes yet?
Now don't get me wrong. I don't mind paying our taxes. Taxes pay for things. Like roads and teachers. Especially teachers. It's hard to believe Oklahoma ranks last in teacher pay. There are talks right now teachers might walk out in April over this. If they do, they have my support. Contact your state representatives and tell them to give those teachers a raise and to restore school funding. Remind them this is an election year, and you're going to go vote.
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