The state has had 46 elected governors, as well as 11 acting governors who assumed powers and duties following the resignation or death of the governor. Before becoming a state, Arkansas Territory had four governors appointed to it by the President of the United States. Orval Faubus served the longest term as state governor, being elected six times to serve twelve years. Bill Clinton, elected five times over two distinct terms, fell only one month short of twelve years. The shortest term for an elected governor was the 38 days served by John Sebastian Little before his nervous breakdown; one of the acting successors to his term, Jesse M. Martin, took office only three days before the end of the term, the shortest term overall. The current governor is RepublicanAsa Hutchinson, who took office on January 13, 2015, after his election on November 4, 2014.
As secretary of the territory from 1819 to 1829, Robert Crittenden served as acting governor whenever the appointed governor was not in the state. This meant he was the first person to perform the office of Governor of Arkansas Territory, since James Miller did not arrive in the territory until nine months after his appointment.
The Arkansas Constitution of 1836 established four-year terms for governors, which was lowered to two years in the 1874, and current, constitution. An amendment in 1984 increased the terms of both governor and lieutenant governor to four years. Governors were originally limited only to serving no more than eight out of every twelve years, but the 1874 constitution removed any term limit. A referendum in 1992 limited governors to two terms.
Until 1864, the constitutions provided that, should the office of governor be rendered vacant, the president of the senate would serve as acting governor until such time as a new governor were elected or the disability removed, or the acting governor's senate term expired. This led to some situations where the governorship changed hands in quick succession, due to senate terms ending or new senate presidents being elected. For example, after John Sebastian Little resigned in 1907, three senate presidents acted as governor before the next elected governor took office. Should the president of the senate be similarly incapacitated, the next in line for the governorship was the speaker of the state house of representatives.
The 1864 constitution created the office of lieutenant governor who would also act as president of the senate, and who would serve as acting governor in case of vacancy. The 1868 constitution maintained the position, but the 1874 constitution removed it and returned to the original line of succession. An amendment to the constitution, passed in 1914 but not recognized until 1925, recreated the office of lieutenant governor, who becomes governor in case of vacancy of the governor's office. The governor and lieutenant governor are not elected on the same ticket.
Arkansas was a strongly Democratic state before the Civil War, electing only candidates from the Democratic party. It elected three Republican governors following Reconstruction, but after the Democratic Party re-established control, 92 years passed before voters chose another Republican.
^The territory was formally organized with the name "Arkansaw", but spellings including "Arkansas" and "Arkansa" remained common until around 1822, when the popularity of the Arkansas Gazette helped standardize the spelling as "Arkansas".
^James Miller was appointed territorial governor on March 3, 1819, the same date the bill organizing Arkansaw Territory was signed. However, to avoid the hot southern summer, he delayed his departure from New Hampshire until September, and took a non-direct route, finally arriving in the territory on December 26, 1819.Robert Crittenden, secretary of the territory, served as acting governor while Miller was delayed.
^Resigned citing poor health. At the time of his resignation, he had been absent from the territory for 18 months.
^George Izard did not arrive in Arkansas Territory until May 31, 1825; Robert Crittenden, Secretary of the territory, acted as governor in his stead, though Crittenden himself was out of state when Izard arrived.
^According to the numbering generally used, acting governors are not numbered.
^Most dates come from the Encyclopedia of Arkansas list of governors; when differing, either the date was different in the actual articles on the governors and that agreed with other sources, or specific sourcing is supplied to explain the discrepancy.
^The office of lieutenant governor was created in 1864 and abolished in 1874. It was recreated in 1914, and was not filled until 1927. The amendment to the constitution creating the office was narrowly voted in by the electorate in 1914. The Speaker of the House declared that the measure had lost, because even though it had received the majority of the votes cast for that particular ballot measure, winning 45,567 to 45,206, it had not received the majority of votes cast across the whole election, determined by looking at the question on the ballot with the highest total number of votes for or against. On that ballot, this figure was 135,517 votes, so it was ruled that at least 67,758 votes in favor would have been required for the measure to pass, essentially counting blank votes as votes against. In 1925, it was discovered that a 1910 law amended this requirement such that only a majority of the votes on the specific question was required. Therefore, the 1914 initiative was declared to be valid.
^Lieutenant governors represented the same party as their governor unless noted.
^Drew resigned due to the low salary he received as governor; as president of the senate, Byrd acted as governor until Roane was elected in a special election to fill the remainder of the term.
^A new election schedule came into effect with this term, scheduling the next election for 1862, shrinking this term to two years.
^Rector resigned two weeks before the end of his term. Most sources state it was due to badly losing his bid for re-election but at least one source states it was due to unhappiness that the new constitution would shorten his term. Governor-elect Flanagin was not sworn in until November 15; in the interim, as president of the senate, Fletcher acted as governor. Fletcher is omitted from most lists of Arkansas governors.
^Some sources state Flanagin left office on April 18, 1864, but that was when Isaac Murphy was sworn in as provisional governor; Flanagin remained governor of the Confederate government-in-exile until May 26, 1865.
^ abFlanagin fled Little Rock as it fell to Union forces on September 10, 1863, leading a largely inept government in exile in Washington, Arkansas until 1865. Murphy was elected provisional governor by a loyalist government set up after Union control of the state was established, taking office on April 18, 1864, causing a slight overlap in terms, though due to the collapse of the Confederate effort in Arkansas, Flanagin had no authority over the state.
^The 1864 constitution was enacted during this term; however, it was drafted by the Union occupation, and had no effect on Flanagin's government. While term lengths remained at four years, a new election schedule was created, calling for elections in 1864.
^Clayton resigned to take an elected seat in the United States Senate; as the office of lieutenant governor was vacant at the time, Hadley, as president pro tempore of the senate, acted as governor for the remainder of the term.
^Ozra Amander Hadley's first name is sometimes spelled "Ozro" in sources; it is unknown which is correct.
^Terms were shortened from four to two years beginning with this term.
^ abSources disagree on when Hughes succeeded Berry, with the National Governors Association saying January 17, contemporary sourcing saying January 15, and the Encyclopedia of Arkansas using both dates. This list uses the contemporary source as the least likely to be mistaken.
^ abSources disagree on when Little resigned. The Encyclopedia of Arkansas says February 7, but the National Governors Association and a book by University of Arkansas Press say February 11. Due to wider use, February 11 is the date used here.
^Little resigned after suffering a nervous breakdown soon after taking office. As president of the senate, Moore acted as governor until the legislature adjourned, at which time a new president pro tempore of the senate was chosen, Pindall, who acted as governor until his senate term expired. For the remaining three days of the gubernatorial term, Martin, the new president pro tempore of the senate, acted as governor.
^Robinson resigned to take an elected seat in the United States Senate. As president of the senate, Oldham acted as governor for six days before a new president of the senate was elected. The new president, Futrell, acted as governor until Hays was elected in a special election to fill the remainder of the term. Conflict over whether or not Futrell could succeed Oldham as acting governor led to the Arkansas Supreme Court ruling that he could.
^ abSome sources state Hays succeeded Futrell on July 23, but that was when the special election that chose Hays occurred; he was sworn in on August 6.
^ abSources disagree on whether Brough succeeded Futrell on January 10 or January 11; a contemporary source states January 10, so this list uses that date.
^ abSources disagree on whether McRae succeeded Brough on January 11 or January 12; a slim majority of sources say January 12.