Governor #11, Booth

Noted in his adulthood for having a charming persona, Newton Booth was born in Salem, Indiana, on December 30, 1825. When he was sixteen his parents moved to Terre Haute, Indiana, where Newton graduated from nearby Asbury University (now DePauw University) in 1846, and then studied law. Admitted to the Indiana Bar in 1850, Newton migrated that same year to California where he became a successful merchant and wholesale grocer in Sacramento, although he made his fortune as a saloon keeper. Said to be one of the greatest public speakers of his day, Booth entered politics in the early 1860s, serving one year as a state senator. He was sworn into office as California’s 11th governor on December 8, 1871. During his term construction of the state capitol was completed, and state debt decreased. His administration advocated sufficient protection for the Chinese already living in California, but stressed restrictions on further Chinese immigration. Officially a Republican, Booth helped to organize a new, independent political party known as the “Dolly Vardens.”  The name was borrowed from a calico pattern composed of many different colors and figures, because this new organization was made up of a mix of “sore heads from any party or by any name.” With their support Booth was elected to the U.S. Senate, yet created controversy by remaining in the governor’s chair until he resigned on February 27, 1875 to assume his new duties in March.  He served in the U.S. Senate until March 3, 1881. A bachelor during his active political career, Booth married the widow of his former business partner in February 1892. He died five months later on July 14, 1892, of cancer.

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