Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Tilghman Tucker, born in North Carolina in 1802, studied law and moved to Columbus, Mississippi, where he opened a legal practice. Subsequently elected to both the Mississippi House of Representatives and the State Senate, Tucker (right) was elected governor in 1841. The first governor to live in the Mississippi Governor's Mansion, his administration was, unfortunately, marred by scandal involving another statewide elected official.
In 1841, Richard S. Graves was elected State Treasurer. In the fall of 1842, the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Walter Forward (below), sent a draft (or check) to the State of Mississippi in the amount of $165,079. The funds were part of a trust called the Two Percent fund to establish railroads in Mississippi. The draft, however, was actually made out to Richard Graves personally and not to the State of Mississippi, and on October 6, Graves, without any other authority or approval, cashed the draft and secured the bulk of the funds in his office. It was not until January 5, 1843, that Governor Tucker received a letter from Congressman Jacob Thompson of Oxford informing him of the transaction, the first inkling he had that something might be amiss, and it certainly was. Apparently, Graves had schemed (perhaps with the knowledge of the Secretary of the Treasury) to secretly use the funds to purchase State bonds for a quick, turnaround profit.
After investigating the situation, the governor and the attorney general decided Graves had to be impeached. In March, 1843, Richard Graves was arrested and charged with embezzlement. During the resulting impeachment trial, which was conducted by Chief Justice William L. Sharkey, Graves was allowed to remain at his home under house arrest, guarded by the Hinds County Sheriff. One evening, Mrs. Graves came to visit her husband and was allowed into the room where he was being held prisoner. Less than an hour later, Mrs. Graves left the room, passing the guard on the way out. There was a problem, however - it wasn't Mrs. Graves, but was in fact the State Treasurer dressed in women's clothes! Upon further investigation, Mrs. Graves was found still in the bedroom. With a head start, Graves escaped and eventually made his way to Canada.
Soon after his escape, Mrs. Graves asked to see the governor, and she turned over a little more than $160,000 in Mississippi treasury warrants, U.S. treasury notes and foreign gold. Soon thereafter, she joined her husband in Canada. Meanwhile, the governor appointed a new state treasurer (William Clarke), who discovered additional monies hidden in the treasurer's office, and he reported to the Legislature that a total of $44,838.46 was still unaccounted for. Then there was the matter of the state treasurer's bond, which is meant to insure the honesty and faithful performance of a public official's duties. Graves' bond had been posted upon his election by ten friends, included R.W. Graves, possibly a brother. Because of Graves' embezzlement, the state sued and won a judgement against these individuals for a sum of $51,865. Clearly, Graves not only betrayed his state and violated his oath of office, but betrayed his friends as well.
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