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Legislature passes bill to pay for governor's "chicken salad and punch"

February
11
1915

On this day in 1915, the state legislature passed an appropriations bill to pay for expenses incurred by former governor Oscar Branch Colquitt for "chicken salad and punch," among other items, during his term in office. An ensuing legal battle, known as the "Chicken Salad Case," lasted until June 1916, when Justice William Seat Fly ruled that the legislature could appropriate for fuel, water, lights, and ice necessary for the Governor's Mansion, but not for groceries and other personal needs of the governor. Colquitt's successor as governor, Jim Ferguson, had continued to purchase groceries with state money under this appropriation. Ferguson testified under oath that he would repay the state if the Supreme Court decided against him, but failed to do so. In September 1917 the High Court of Impeachment held that Ferguson was guilty of a misapplication of public funds. The Court of Impeachment, by a vote of twenty-five to three, removed Ferguson from office and made him ineligible to hold any office of honor, trust, or profit under the state of Texas. Ferguson continued to exert considerable political influence, however, through the political career of his wife, Miriam (Ma) Ferguson.

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