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So long as the noble or virtuous man breathes the breath of life, so long shall malice and envy strive to feast at the expense of his reputation. But only let death intervene, and behold the halo gather round his name. Who is there among the Chickasaw people at the present day ready or willing to cast a slur upon the memory of Cyrus Harris, the great and good; though, while he lived, see him surrounded by traducers and political enemies numberless? Verily does history repeat itself in his nephew, William Malcolm Guy, who, following the example of his uncle, permitted the “rule or ruin” faction to seize the reins of government rather than plunge his country in a disastrous war. Yet for this act of self-sacrifice, laudable in his uncle, Guy is not infrequently branded with timidity. William Malcolm Guy was born at Boggy Depot, Choctaw Nation, February 4, 1845, the son of Colonel William Richard Guy, who served faithfully in the Florida war. William Malcolm Guy was sent to a neighborhood school in the Chickasaw Nation, but being of a rather wild, adventurous disposition, ran off to Mississippi, where he went to school until the breaking out of the war in 1861, when he joined the Seventeenth Mississippi Regiment under Colonel Fetherstone. In the campaign which followed from the fight at Bull’s Run until the battle of Gettysburg, July 2, 1863, where the gallant young soldier was wounded in the head and had his left arm shattered by a musket ball, Guy was everywhere in the front ranks. When stricken down he lay twelve hours on the battlefield before removal to the field hospital, and it was three days before his wound was operated upon, his youth and vigorous health alone saving his life. Before his complete recovery he was made a prisoner and sent to Baltimore, where he remained until exchanged to City Point, Va. At the conclusion of the war, instead of returning home, he entered college at Marshall Institute, Mississippi, where he stayed for two years, coming back to Boggy Depot in 1868, where he found his three married sisters residing. Soon afterward he moved to Mill Creek and aided his uncle, Cyrus Harris, in the stock business. In 1870 he entered the field of politics, being elected secretary of the Chickasaw Senate, in which capacity he served six years, off and on. In 1883, he was elected Representative of his county, and in 1885 and 1886 distinguished himself in the Upper House, where he gained the reputation of being an incorruptible as well as a wise legislator.
Guy was first brought out for Governor by his uncle, ex-Governor Harris, in the summer of 1888, against William Byrd, C. E. Burris and ex-Governor Jonas Wolf; but, notwithstanding a large majority accorded to him at the polls, the race, as is usual when there are more than two candidates, resolved itself into a legislative contest of a most exciting nature, which resulted in a majority of one for Guy. The new executive had no sooner been installed than he proceeded to select officers. This he did without partiality and with due regard to their fitness, distributing the favors equally between his own political friends and those of the opposite faction; but he had no sooner done so than a member of his own cabinet, hailing from the opposite ranks, and on whom he had conferred the office because of his poverty and inability for hard work, turned upon his benefactor, and, falling into the ranks of enemy, lent himself to every scheme which might serve to damage or confuse the new administration. Following closely on this was the Governor’s treaty with the Santa Fe Railroad, whereby he received, upon his own responsibility (and in accordance with the constitutional provisions), a large sum of money for the benefit of the nation, but which action was used with great efficiency to prejudice the full bloods against him. When this was to some extent accomplished, Hon. Lem Reynolds, a statesman of unquestionable ability and the recognized central figure of the opposition group, preceded to shake the foundation of every institution conducted by the party in power. One of the results of this move was the appointment of Professor Harley, a white man, as lessee and superintendent of the Chickasaw National Male Academy, in the room of Judge Ben Carter, brother-in-law of Governor Guy. This was accomplished by securing a majority in the Legislature.
The Byrd party, through constant misrepresentations, finally gained a decided advantage in both Houses, so that when the Governor’s term had elapsed and he was again elected by a majority of fourteen of the public vote, the Legislature called for a count and ruled out sufficient names to seat William Byrd, who was duly sworn in as Governor of the Chickasaw Nation.
On the night of September 26, 1888, the deposed chieftain arrived in Tishomingo with a following of nearly two hundred men, and, placing himself in readiness for a coup d’ teat, entered the capital next morning, concealing his presence until the members repaired to the House and proceeded to business. Governor Guy forced the honorable Speaker to read the election returns in the condition they were in before their alteration, and to immediately announce the result of the same, which he did after considerable hesitation. not, however, until the Hon. Sam Paul had delivered a speech that was too logical not to have a mighty influence upon the argument. Judge Duncan was then called upon to officiate, and Guy was inaugurated governor of the nation. A little later a member of the Byrd faction, under the crafty advice of Colonel Reynolds, made a motion to adjourn sine die, which was seconded, and the members rose to their feet and hurriedly left the town. The majority of the Guy men remained at the capital for two days, after which the governor received orders from a higher power to disband his forces. About this time, while the turbulence of party spirit was at its height, Guy was waylaid and his life attempted; but, having the prudence to travel with a bodyguard, he escaped death at the hands of his would-be assassin.
Soon after these occurrences Major Heath was sent from Washington to report the condition of affairs at the Chickasaw capital. On first arriving he met with Governor Byrd, and shortly afterward invited both contestants to meet him. They did so, and came to an understanding that the decision should rest with the authorities at Washington. Guy was without the shadow of a doubt as to the result. Why should he hesitate to have it settled by arbitration? The United States Indian Agent had unhesitatingly pronounced him governor by a majority of the public vote. Meanwhile the Byrd faction wore a gloomy aspect, all save one, the placid leader himself, who could ill conceal the smile of triumph which threatened to completely over-run his countenance. At length the decision arrived, and its results was equally astonishing to both parties. Byrd was governor, not by the unanimous wish of his people, but by express desire of the United States authorities at Washington. Readers, place whatever construction you will upon the foregoing, it capable of but one rendition, and “he who runs can read.” There are still some members of the Guy party who condemn their later leader for hesitating to assert his own and his people’s rights; but when we consider the loss of life that such a course would necessitate, as well as its disastrous result to the tribal government, we are bound in all justice to admit that Guy acted with a moral heroism only to be met with in men of a superior stamp. Upon himself personally it was a great hardship to relinquish the leadership of his people without striking a blow, surrounded as he was by nearly three-fourths of the available fighting men of his country.
The deposed governor made a few comments about the state of affairs; but, viewing the situation philosophically, and pleased that none had suffered to gratify his ambition, retired to his bachelor home, and there, with his usual energy and industry, spent the two years which followed in the extension and improvement of his farm. Soon afterward the press announced to a numerous circle of relatives and acquaintances that ex-Governor William Malcolm Guy had broken the bonds of celibacy by marriage with Miss Maggie Jane Lindsay, daughter of the late John Lindsay, Knoxville, Tenn., a pretty and refined young lady of nineteen years of age. The ceremony was performed within the limits of the home circle, at the residence of his brother-in-law, Judge B. W. Carter, at Ardmore, only the old bachelors of his acquaintance being invited to be present on the occasion.