Biography of Governor William L. Byrd

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The life of William L. Byrd has undergone many changes within the past three years. His early career of uneventful peace has given place to one of excessive turbulence. The quiet, plodding businessman of long ago is now metamorphosed into a ruler whose every action is looked forward to with something very much akin to dread. His recent conduct in the disfranchisement of the white citizens was alone sufficient to gain him notoriety. But let us commence at the beginning.

William L. Byrd, from the most reliable information, was born in Poutotoe, Mississippi, being the son of John Byrd, a white man and Mary Moore, of Chickasaw and Irish descent. Some of Mr. Byrd’s political opponents declare him to have been a white child, adopted in infancy by the family; but we do not see any grounds for this supposition. In youth William was sent to school at Pine Ridge, Choctaw Nation, and later to the Chickasaw Male Academy. The first office he held in the service of his country was that of representative, in 1867, and afterward draughtsman of the House for two sessions. At this time he was residing in the Choctaw Nation. Moving to Stonewall in 1875, he was elected one of three in 1887 to revise the Chickasaw laws. In 1881 he was appointed school superintendent, and in 1882 was elected delegate to Washington; was national agent until 1885, and the following year was a candidate for the governorship against William Guy, ex-Governor Wolf, B. C. Burris, Palmer Moseley and R. L. Boyd. The result was considerably in Guy’s favor; but, as usual, when a candidate fails to secure a majority of the total votes cast, the matter was referred to the Legislature, and Guy was elected by only one majority over Byrd. In 1888 the race between Byrd and Guy was again run, resulting as before; but Byrd’s party being in a majority in the legislature body, they resolved to contest the election, and so doing, cast out a score of devils in the shape of illegal votes, electing Byrd by a majority of forty-eight. Here was a repetition of the Overton-Harris affair, and which was followed by disagreeable results, the United States being called upon to decide the quarrel. Here, again, Byrd was victorious, Uncle Sam being partial to the man of sober aspect and business parts. In 1890, when Sam Paul was in the arena as a representative candidate of the Progressive party, Governor Byrd met him in the lists and defeated him by an immense majority. The disfranchisement of the white voters accounts for this majority, for had the latter been permitted to vote, Paul must undoubtedly have been the victor. In less than a week after the election, the report was passed far and wide that Byrd had been assassinated; but no attempt of the kind has ever come to light. The governor declares his intention of looking after the interests of all his people, without respect to their political creed, nor will he interfere with the landed rights of the white citizens. This he has declared to the writer of this present biography. Governor Byrd entered the mercantile business in 1873, at Doaksville, and moved to Stonewall, where he has been doing an immense business. He has 300 acres under cultivation and 1,000 head of graded cattle. In 1862 he married Susan Folsom, daughter of David Folsom, ex-chief of the Choctaws, but has no family. The children of his neighbors, of whom he is extremely fond, rejoice in climbing to the knees of the big, good-natured man, while he is reading what the press has to say about his barbarous treatment of the white man. Governor Byrd, on his mother’s side, is of the house of In-cun-no-mar.

MLA Source Citation:

O'Beirne, Harry F. and Edward S. The Indian Territory: Its Chiefs, Legislators, and Leading Men. St. Louis. 1898. Web. 25 January 2015. - Last updated on Jul 28th, 2012


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