James H. Higgins

James H. Higgins

James H. Higgins (January 22, 1876 - September 16, 1927) was an American politician and Governor of Rhode Island from 1907 to 1909.


Origins and education

James Henry Higgins was born on January 22, 1876 in the village of Saylesville in Lincoln, Rhode Island. His parents, Thomas F. and Elizabeth Ann Mather died while he was young. James attended Pawtucket High School, and put himself through Brown University, earning a Bachelor of Arts in 1898. He studied law at Georgetown University and graduated in 1900, before returning to Rhode Island.

Political career

In 1901, Higgins was elected to the Rhode Island General Assembly, representing Pawtucket. The next year, at the age of 26, he was elected to the first of four consecutive terms as mayor of Pawtucket.

1906 gubernatorial campaign

In 1906, Higgins was nominated as the Democratic candidate for Governor of Rhode Island, challenging incumbent Republican Governor George H. Utter. The "New York Times" attributed the popularity of the "boy Mayor of Pawtucket" to "his personality and private character. He does not drink or smoke." His acceptance speech echoed the Democratic convention platform, attacking corruption and the "boss system" of government, pledging an eight hour workday for state and municipal workers, and endorsing the election of Rhode Island's United States Senators by direct vote. (Popular election of U.S. Senators eventually came to pass through the ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1914.) Higgins' candidacy was endorsed by Colonel Robert Hale Ives Goddard and the short-lived Lincoln Party, which had been organized around Goddard's bid to succeed George P. Wetmore in the U.S. Senate and "smash the state machine".cite book
title=American Monthly Review of Reviews, Vol. XXXIV
date=July-December 1906

After a campaign which seized on public discontent with the influence of lobbyist and Rhode Island Republican Party Central Committee chairman, General Charles R. Brayton, Higgins was elected over Utter by a margin of 1,238 votes, becoming Rhode Island's youngest governor, and its first catholic governor.citation
title=Rhode Island Elects Democratic Governor
newspaper=New York Times
date=November 8, 1906

Governor of Rhode Island

Higgins was sworn into office on January 3, 1907. In his inaugural speech, he built upon the themes of his campaign, warning that "the evils of lobbying" had compromised the state government to "a disgraceful extent," and that the power of lobbying had become "an exclusive and oppressive monopoly" in the hand of Brayton, a "coarse and venal boss" who was operating out of the Rhode Island State House offices of High Sheriff of Providence County, General Hunter C. White.citation
title=Rhode Island Lobby Menace
newspaper=New York Times
date=January 4, 1907
] Higgins' attacks on "Braytonism" were echoed in the "New York Times", which in February published an article on "Rhode Island's Despot," alleging that "for forty years Brayton's control over the General Assembly, and consequently over all legislation, has been practically absolute".citation
title=Rhode Island's Despot: Something About the Man Who for Many Years Has Ruled the Little Commonwealth with a Rod of Iron
newspaper=New York Times
date=February 24, 1907

In March 1907, Higgins wrote an open letter about Brayton to White: "Year in and year out he has occupied and used your office for his vile purposes, with your knowledge and consent ... clean this moral and political pest out of your office." White took no action, but in July Brayton resigned from the Executive Committee of the State Central Committee of the Republican Party.citation
title=Higgins Flays Brayton: Directs Sheriff Not to Let Republican Boss Use His Office
newspaper=New York Times
date=March 9, 1907
] citation
title=Brayton Resigns: Higgins Succeeds in Ousting Rhode Island Republican Boss
newspaper=New York Times
date=July 5, 1907

In November 1907, Higgins won a second term over a challenge by Republican Lieutenant Governor of Rhode Island, Frederick H. Jackson. Higgins declined to seek a third term as governor. [ [http://www.nga.org/portal/site/nga/menuitem.29fab9fb4add37305ddcbeeb501010a0 National Governors Association ] at www.nga.org]

Later life

In November, 1908, Higgins married Ellen F. Maguireof Pawtucket. In 1912, he ran unsuccessfully as a Democratic candidate for United States Senate.citation
title=Peter Gerry for Congress: Rhode Island Democrats Nominate Theodore Green for Governor
newspaper=New York Times
date=October 11, 1912

Higgins died September 16, 1927. He is buried at St. Mary's Cemetery in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.


* citation
title=Pawtucket's Boy Mayor is Named for Governor: He isn't 30 years old yet
newspaper=New York Times
date=October 4, 1906

* cite book
first=Albert Nelson
title=Who's Who in New England
publisher=A. N. Marquis

* cite book
first=Frank Moore
title=International Year Book
publisher=Dodd, Mead & Company


External links

* [http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=7253996 James H. Higgins at Find-a-grave]
* [http://politicalgraveyard.com/bio/higgins.html James H. Higgins at the Political Graveyard]

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