By BORA, Mar 27 2013 6:35PM
James Phillip Eagle was born on August 10, 1837, in Tennessee; the son of James and Charity Swaim Eagle. John was educated in the public schools. The family eventually settled Prairie County (now Lonoke Co.), Arkansas, in the 1850s.
Eagle was appointed a deputy sheriff until the Civil War, when he enlisted as a private in the Fifth Arkansas Mounted Rifles, serving in Indian territory.
He was a member of the 1st Consolidated Arkansas Rifles at the Battle of Richmond, serving the Brig. General Thomas Churchill’s division. His unit was not engaged during the first two stages of the fight, but were heavily involved in the Confederate flanking maneuver against the Union right at the Richmond Cemetery.
Eagle finished the war as a lt. colonel, participating in campaigns throughout the Western Theatre.
Returning to Arkansas, he became a wealthy farmer, mostly in Pulsaki Co., Arkansas. Eagle enrolled as a student at the Mississippi College, but left after one year due to ill health.
In 1872, he was elected to the Arkansas General Assembly, and served as a delegate of Arkansas’ constitutional convention of 1874. He served as Speaker of the Arkansas House in the mid to late 1870s.
Eagle was elected governor of Arkansas in 1888, and was re-elected in 1890. His term saw improvements in prison reform and support for education. He was instrumental in women's suffrage, and opposed many of the racially discriminatory legislation being enacted by the Arkansas legislation.
Eagle did not run for a third term as governor.
He was appointed, then later removed, as a commissioner on the Arkansas State Capitol Commission by Gov. Jeff Davis, apparently over a personal/church politics issue.
While governor, Eagle welcomed U.S. President Benjamin Harrison, the first time a sitting U.S. president visited the state.
A very religious man, Eagle was also a Baptist minister, as well as serving for 24 years as president of the Arkansas Baptist Convention.
Eagle died in Little Rock on December 20, 1904, and is buried in Mt. Holly Cemetery.
Eagle married Mary Kavanaugh Oldham, of Madison County, Kentucky, in 1882. Eagle met Oldham at the annual fair in Richmond in 1870. They had no children.
Mary’s brother, William K. Oldham, was also governor of Arkansas, serving for a short time in 1913.
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