Governor Richard Coke (1829-1897)

Governor Coke, 15th Governor of Texas, serving from January 15, 1874 to December 21, 1876.  Coke was the husband of Mary Evans Horne of the pioneer McLennan County Horne family in 1852 and was the brother-in-law of Ophelia Jenkins Horne and her husband Lucius Louis Horne. Coke was born in Virginia and after graduating from William and Mary, he moved to Waco, Texas in 1850 to practice law.

In the tumultuous early years of Texas statehood that followed, Coke established his law practice and began to venture into public office. Coke served as a delegate to the convention that was to vote for secession from the United States in 1861. Shortly thereafter, the Civil War began and he joined the Confederate Army in 1862, serving as Captain in the 15th Texas Infantry for the duration of the war. His only known injury was on November 3, 1863 in a battle near Opelousas, Louisiana. At the close of the war, he returned to McLennan County.

Almost immediately, Coke accepted an appointment as a District Court Judge in Texas. He was elected to the Texas Supreme Court the following year, only to be fired by Gen. Phillip Sheridan along with four other justices in an effort to advance reconstruction. In the intervening years, there was a strong backlash to reconstruction, leading to his successful Democratic campaign for Governor in 1873, defeating the incumbent Edmund J. Davis, only to have his election ruled invalid by the Texas Supreme Court. After several contentious months, former Governor Davis resigned and Coke was allowed to take office, serving from 1874 to 1876.

Significant accomplishments during his terms as Governor of Texas included a strong focus on balancing the state budget and the establishment of the college now known as Texas A&M University. Coke later was elected to the U.S. Senate from Texas serving in that capacity from 1877 to 1895.

He retired to his home in Waco and his nearby farm. He became ill after suffering exposure while fighting a flood of the Brazos River on the family farm near Waco on May 14, 1897. After a short illness, he died at his home in Waco and, after a state funeral, was buried in Oakwood Cemetery. Coke County in West Texas is named in his honor.

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