C. T. Neu

GIDDINGS-CLARK ELECTION CONTEST. The Giddings-Clark election contest, 1871–72, was a Reconstruction incident involving the right to a seat in Congress from the Texas Third District. Dewitt Clinton Giddings, the Democratic candidate, won the election by a majority of 135 votes over his Radical Republican opponent, William T. Clark, but the state returning board delayed in certifying the election because Republican governor E. J. Davis concluded that fraud had taken place and called for an investigation. Republicans officials charged that local Democrats had used intimidation to keep blacks from voting. Prompted by Davis, the board decided to invalidate the vote from Limestone and Freestone counties because of reported violence against Republicans. It also rejected the Bosque County votes on the grounds that the board received no official tally from the county, and similarly rejected the boxes from Brazos and Washington counties on the grounds that they had been "illegally marked" and that blacks had been prevented from voting. The altered results gave the seat to Clark, to whom the board presented the certificate of election.

Giddings, however, decided to contest the election. The House seated Clark on January 10, 1872, but without prejudicing Giddings's right to contest. On January 31 a grand jury indicted Davis and several others for "willfully, unlawfully and feloniously [making] a false and untrue tabular statement" of the election's outcome. The federal circuit court found Davis and the other defendants not guilty, but Congress agreed to take up the matter of the disputed election. The sixty days beginning February 1 were designated as the time for taking testimony. Giddings worked diligently and uncovered a mass of evidence showing fraud on the part of the Radicals, but Clark, relying on the Republican majority in the House to support him, responded with little more than statements from party officials. At the end of the sixty-day period the committee on elections rejected Clark's plea for an extension of time, examined the evidence presented by Giddings, and concluded that Giddings was entitled to the seat. The House concurred in this report, and on May 13, 1872, Giddings took his seat.

Alwyn Barr, Reconstruction to Reform: Texas Politics, 1876–1906 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1971). Dewitt Clinton Giddings Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Carl H. Moneyhon, Republicanism in Reconstruction Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1980). C. T. Neu, "The Giddings-Clark Election Contest, 1871–1872," Bulletin of the East Texas State Teachers College 14 (June 1931).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


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

Handbook of Texas Online, C. T. Neu, "GIDDINGS-CLARK ELECTION CONTEST," accessed June 19, 2019,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Get this week's most popular Handbook of Texas articles delivered straight to your inbox