Governor #14, Perkins

California’s future 14th governor ran away from the family farm at a young age to hide on a departing vessel, dreaming of one day becoming a ship captain. Not discovered until the ship had sailed, George Clement Perkins spent the next four years at sea. Arriving in San Francisco as the fevered “rush” part of the Gold Rush was abating, Perkins unsuccessfully tried his luck at mining, drove a mule train and worked as a porter in a store in Ophir—eventually buying the store. His is the proverbial work-hard-become-successful story, because by the age of 20 he was a successful businessman grossing $500,000 per year through trade in merchandise, produce and provisions. Born August 23, 1839 in Kennebunkport, Maine, George’s formal educational opportunities were limited, but he applied himself to private studies.  Elected to serve a term as state senator in 1869, he was reelected in 1871. While serving in the senate he met a ship captain, with whom he formed the Goodall, Nelson and Perkins Steamship Company, later renamed the Pacific Coast Steam Navigation Company.  In addition, Perkins owned sheep and cattle ranches, was involved in mining and lumber interests, and was president of Arctic Oil Works. He helped establish Bank of Butte County, and was a director for the California State Bank in Sacramento and the First National Bank of San Francisco. Elected governor in September 1879 on the Republican ticket, George Perkins was sworn into office January 8, 1880. During his term he pardoned numerous prisoners, personally interviewing each one. The new California constitution, which had gone into effect in July 1879, reduced his own term to three years instead of four.  He left office January 10, 1883, and returned to his various businesses. In 1893 he was appointed to the U.S. Senate to complete the unexpired term of the recently deceased Leland Stanford. Perkins was reelected to the U.S. Senate three more times, retiring in 1915. George Perkins died February 26, 1923.




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