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Paul M. Lucko

FERGUSON, CHARLES M. (ca. 1860–1906). Charles M. Ferguson, political leader, county official, and civil servant, was born in Houston, Texas, about 1860 of mixed racial ancestry; he was probably born a slave. He graduated from Fisk University at Nashville, Tennessee, in 1880. He then moved to Fort Bend County and with his brother, Henry Clay Ferguson, began a career of government service. Ferguson was living in Richmond and owned a 1,500-acre plantation on Jones Creek when he won election to the position of clerk of the district court in Fort Bend County in 1882, 1884, and 1886. He did not complete the final year of his last term. On September 6, 1888, white members of a political association known as the Jaybirds ordered Ferguson and several other black political leaders to leave the county. Facing threats upon his life and detested by many white residents for his efforts aimed at organizing African Americans, Ferguson moved temporarily to Nashville. He and James D. Davis, another exiled black political leader, filed a civil rights suit against the Jaybirds in a federal court at Galveston in 1889. In an out-of-court settlement Ferguson received a $13,000 payment for his damages. His involvement in the political and racial controversies of Fort Bend County were a part of the infamous Jaybird-Woodpecker War.

Ferguson returned to Texas permanently in 1889 and represented the state on the executive committee of the Bureau of Relief, which met in Washington, D.C., in 1889. He had served as a delegate to the national Republican party convention in 1888 and did so again in 1892, 1896, 1900, and 1904. Ferguson frequently opposed Norris Wright Cuney in intraparty battles and successfully fought Robert Lloyd Smith's appointment to the United States Treasury Department. Although Ferguson occasionally cooperated with the People's party during the 1890s, he always retained his Republican affiliation and was rewarded with appointments to federal government positions. He reportedly refused an appointment to a South American consulate, but by 1892 he began a period of service as clerk of the Federal District Court in Paris, Texas. President William McKinley named him deputy collector of customs in San Antonio in 1900; Ferguson remained at that position for the rest of his life. San Antonio newspapers described him as "uniformly courteous" and "respected by the whites as well as the negroes" in the performance of his duties. On his deathbed he answered correspondence pertaining to his job until an hour before his passing. He was a Methodist and a leader of the Grand Order of the Odd Fellows. He was married and the father of two children. He died in San Antonio on July 21, 1906, after a short illness resulting from complications relating to Bright's Disease. He was buried in Houston in Olivewood Cemetery.

San Antonio Daily Express, July 22, 1906. Pauline Yelderman, The Jay Bird Democratic Association of Fort Bend County (Waco: Texian Press, 1979).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Paul M. Lucko, "FERGUSON, CHARLES M.," accessed July 18, 2019,

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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