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Encyclopedia > James B. A. Robertson

James Brooks Ayers Robertson (March 15, 1871March 7, 1938, also called J.B.A. Robertson, was an American lawyer and statesman from Chandler, Oklahoma. He was Governor of Oklahoma from 1919 to 1923.

Robertson was born in Keokuk County, Iowa and taught school there befoer moving to Chandler in 1892. He married twice, first to Alice Stubblefield, and after her death in 1914 to Isabelle Butler. While teaching school he read for the law and was admitted to the bar in 1898.

Political career

In 1900 JBA made his first entry into politics, and was elected the County Attoney for Lincoln County, then in the Oklahoma Territory. Governor Haswkell apponted him a district judge in 1909. He resigned in 1910 to run for election as Governor, but withdrew before the Primary and threw his support to Lee Cruce. When the U.S. 1910 Census earned Oklahoma 3 new seats in the U.S. Congress, he ran for for one of them, but lost in the Democratic Primary.

In 1914 Robertson made his second run for Governor, this time losing to Robert L. Williams in the primary. In 1918, he finally won the primary, and then defeated Republican Horace G. McKeever in the general election.

Term as Governor

His administration was marred by several events that involved the state in violence. Racially indspred lynchings in 1920 led Robertson to appoint a commission of race relations, with both black and white commissioners. This didn't help, and the violence returned worse than before. The Tulsa Race Riot in 1921 wasn't resolved until the govermor declared martial law and sent in the National Guard.

Labor relations and strikes, along with increasing agitation by the Socialist Party caused Robertson to activate the Guard in 1919 to stop violence in telephone strike at Drumright and the later coal miner's strike. Once he had demonstrated his ability to bring in troops, he had more success in resolving similar issues without them. He did use the Gaurd again in 1922 during a railroad strike.

These eventsd tended to overshadow the very constructive work he did in making major improvements in Oklahoma's roads and highways, as well as major initiatives in public education.

Later life

Robertson resumed the practice of law. He was charged with bribery in a Bank scandal, along with 30 other current and former state officials. Although acquitted, he never won another election. He did make bids for governor, the Oklahoma Supreme Court, and the U.S. Senate. He died from cancer on March 7, 1938 at Oklahoma City and was buried in the Oak Part Cemetery at Chandler.



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