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Thomas Jefferson Terral

Thomas Terral
Courtesy of the Arkansas History Commission

Terral was born on December 21, 1882, in Union Parish, Louisiana. He came to Arkansas to attend the University of Arkansas law school. He received his degree in 1910 and joined the Arkansas bar the same year. In 1911 he became the assistant secretary of the Arkansas Senate and assistant to the deputy state superintendent of public instruction. These dual posts allowed Terral to assemble an array of statewide contacts.

In 1914 Terral married Eula Terral of Pine Bluff. The couple had no children.

In 1916 Terral won election as the Democratic candidate for secretary of state. Reelected in 1918, he stepped down in 1920 to make an unsuccessful race bid for governor, finishing third in a field of nine candidates.

In 1924 the political situation was complicated by the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. By 1924 the Klan was strong enough to cower most of the candidates for the gubernatorial nomination. The KKK leadership endorsed William Lee Cazort of Johnson County, a move which caused dissent within the Klan ranks and planted what would be the seeds of the organization's destruction.

Terral countered by seeking Klan membership near his family's home in Louisiana. While technically not eligible he was "naturalized" by the klavern, a kind of honorary membership. This made it more difficult for the Arkansas Klan to criticize Terral, who out polled the Klan candidate by more than four-to-one.

Terral's primary interest focused on economy and efficiency in state government as was evident in his desire to consolidate or eliminate the numerous honorary boards and commissions. Although the legislators reacted favorably to Terral's attempt at greater government economy, it was not inclined to approve his requests for tax increases. For his part Terral appeared content to mark time and save money. At the end of his first term in 1926, it was difficult for Terral to point to any real accomplishment.

John Martineau of Little Rock, Terral's opponent, found no shortage of things to point at. Martineau accused Terral of accepting bribes from the American Book Company in exchange for selecting their textbooks for use in Arkansas schools. Martineau also alleged that Terral had received a paid life-insurance policy for funneling the state's business through a single agent.

After his defeat in the primary, Terral enter private law practice in Little Rock and never again ventured into politics.

Next: John E. Martineau