Pioneer Governors: James Budd, 1895 – 1899

James Budd

In 1858, when James was only seven years old, the Budd family moved to California from Wisconsin, finally settling in Stockton three years later. Young James graduated with the first four-year class from the University of California at Berkeley in 1873, and married Inez Merrill that same year. They had no children. After graduating from college, he studied law in his father’s Stockton firm and was admitted to the bar in 1874, when he was 23. Having a strong interest in politics, his public career began when he was appointed the San Joaquin County deputy district attorney. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for California’s 2nd District in the 1884 elections, becoming the first Democrat to win the district since the Civil War. His campaign, largely conducted by touring the state in a buckboard carriage, was a protest against the powerful Southern Pacific Railroad. During the bitter 1894 campaign for governor, Budd survived a scandal centered on his alleged rape of a teenaged maid—and was the only Democrat to win state office that year, edging out Republican challenger Morris Estee by a slim margin to become California’s 19th governor on January 11, 1895. During his term Budd successfully pushed legislation through to create the Bureau of Highways, an agency to construct and maintain the state’s growing network of roads. But—although he was able to reduce state expenditures—his reform program for increased railroad oversight was halted by the opposition. With his health failing, he decided not to seek re-election in 1898. James Budd died July 30, 1908, at his home in Stockton.




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