Son of Illegal Lieutenant Governor

Or maybe, Illegal Lieutenant Governor Rides Again. Or how about, Return of The Illegal Lieutenant Governor

You have to remember some old movies to understand those titles. Here’s an update:

Heard from Joe Maxwell, who was written up in our President’s Day ruminations blog about whether he served 55 days illegally as Lieutenant Governor. Maxwell, now a private practice lawyer in Mexico, assures us he was okay. He remembers that there were some questions raised by Republicans back in 2000 when Governor Wilson appointed him Lite Governor (as some call the job). But nobody took the issue to court. Not much could have been done in the courts in those 55 days anyway.

Maxwell recalls that he hired ex-Representative Jason Klum, a young lawyer, to help him work through court decisions on appointments. He remembers that they put out a statement that seemed to end the discussion. “We believe we served under the authority of the Constitution,” he told us, “and that seemed to resolve the matter then.”

“Or maybe I bluffed my way through,” he concluded.

He thinks the materials gathered that either justified the appointment or bluffed his way through are in the state archives. So we are now going to walk away from this discussion and leave it to a future historian, student of government, or person with the time to ponder such machinations of the past to carry forth the discussion on their own time and their own blog page.

If you made it through all of the previous piece you will have noticed that the last line was crossed out. It concerned Hancock Lee Jackson, who served as Lieutenant Governor before Trusten Polk was elected by the legislature to the United States Senate. A reading of the 1820 Missouri Constitution (egads!!! Now we’re reading the original state constitution!) shows that the Lieutenant Governor’s role was different in those days and while Jackson assumed the work of the missing Governor after Trusten Polk left, he did not actually vacate the lieutenant governorship. His main duty was to call a special election to pick Polk’s successor, at which point he was fully the number two man in state government again.

The first time this kind of thing happened was when Abraham J. Williams, a one-legged shoemaker from Boone County was elevated from Senate President Pro-tem to the Governorship upon the death (pleurisy) of Frederick Bates in 1825. There was no lieutenant governor at that time because Benjamin Reeves had resigned to help make the first survey of the Santa Fe Trail. Williams assumed the duties of governor, called the election to pick a replacement for Bates, and then resumed his role as a state senator.

It’s possible there have been other appointed lieutenant governors in Missouri’s 189-year state history but we’ve enjoyed about all this discussion we can stand and are moving on now.

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