There are two Texas traditions involving state governors and the Bible. They are referred to as the “Supreme Court Bible” and the “Governor’s Bible.” The following is the story of the Governor’s Bible. We will talk about the Supreme Court Bible in a later article.
A Texas tradition began with Governor Pat Morris Neff, who presented a Bible to his successor, Miriam A. Ferguson in 1925. The Bible was open to a particular passage, and Neff wrote an inscription on the page. For the last 90 years, with only two exceptions, Texas governors have continued the practice.
Jacque Barcus served as secretary to Governor Pat Neff. In addition to the Bible, Neff had left a white rose in the governor’s office for the Fergusons. When the Fergusons arrived at the Governor’s office, Barcus quoted Jim Ferguson as having sat down behind the Governor’s desk, tossed the white rose onto the window sill and said, “Come on, let’s get to work. Sunday School is over.”
No inscription can be found from Governor Ross Sterling to Miriam A. Ferguson, whatever the reason. Governor Beauford H. Jester died in office after having served six months of his second term. Jester died of a heart attack on July 11, 1949. These are the two exceptions referenced above.
The inscriptions are usually written in black ink, often in the reference margin between the two columns of verses. They normally include the date, the name of the writer, the name of the incoming governor and the scripture reference.
Below are the passages marked by the outgoing governors, quoting the King James Version (KJV), the same version as the historic document:
Pat Neff to Miriam Ferguson – Psalm 119:105, Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
Miriam Ferguson to Dan Moody – Matthew 7:12, Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
Dan Moody to Ross Sterling – John 3:16, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. and Psalm 19:14, Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.
Ross Sterling to Miriam Ferguson – none was found
Miriam Ferguson to James Allred – Jeremiah 50:32, And the most proud shall stumble and fall, and none shall raise him up: and I will kindle a fire in his cities, and it shall devour all round about him.
James Allred to W. Lee O’Daniel – Psalm 91:2, I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.
W. Lee O’Daniel to Coke Stevenson – Exodus 20:3-17, [O’Daniel marked the familiar passage known as The Ten Commandments, quoted below (note (a)).]
Coke Stevenson to Beauford Jester – 2 Timothy 2:15, Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Beauford Jester to Alan Shivers – none, as Governor Jester died while still in office
Alan Shivers to Price Daniel – Philippians 4:6, Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
Price Daniel to Abraham Kazen, Jr. – Psalm 121, [Daniel marked the entire chapter, quoted below (note (b)).]
Price Daniel to John Connally – Proverbs 3: 5-6, Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
John Connally to Preston Smith – Proverbs 29:18, Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.
Preston Smith to Dolph Briscoe – Proverbs 12:19, The lip of truth shall be established for ever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment.
Dolph Briscoe to William Clements – Micah 6:8, He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
William Clements to Mark White – Ecclesiastes 3:1, To every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
Mark White to William Clements – Proverbs 22:6, Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
William Clements to Ann Richards – Ecclesiastes 3:17, I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.
Ann Richards to George Bush – Amos 5:15(a), Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate:
George Bush to Rick Perry – Isaiah 40:28-31, Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard,
that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
Rick Perry to Greg Abbott – Matthew 20:25-28, But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
(a) The Ten Commandments, Exodus 20:3-17:
3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
5 thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
6 and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
7 Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
10 but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
11 for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lordblessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
13 Thou shalt not kill.
14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.
15 Thou shalt not steal.
16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.
(b) Psalm 121:
1 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
2 My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
3 He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
4 Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
6 The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
8 The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.
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