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Stephen B. Packard

Stephen Bennett Packard (April 25, 1839 - January 31, 1922), a native of Maine, emerged as an important Republican politician in Louisiana during the era of Reconstruction. He was the unsuccessful Republican gubernatorial nominee in 1876.

A captain in the Union Army during the American Civil War, Packard was appointed United States marshal in New Orleans in 1871 during the administration of U.S. President U.S. Grant. He emerged as a leader of what was called the "Customhouse Ring", a faction of the Republican Party opposed to Governor Henry Clay Warmoth.

In 1872, Packard directed the successful gubernatorial campaign of William Pitt Kellogg. Packard supported the impeachment of outgoing Governor Warmoth. The Democratic Party disputed the results of the election, and both parties claimed victory. The legislature impeached Warmoth as governor, on charges of having sold the election. His election board had certified John McEnery as governor. Packard obtained federal recognition of the African American P.B.S. Pinchback as governor for the thirty-five days left in Warmoth's term. Kellogg was then recognized by President Grant as the legitimate authority in charge.

In 1876 Packard was the Radical Republican candidate for governor in 1876. In another disputed election, both Packard and his Democratic opponent, Francis T. Nicholls were inaugurated. In the elections since 1868, there was increasing political violence. By 1876, the paramilitary White League, effectively an arm of the Democratic Party, had conducted open campaigns of intimidation and physical attacks, to keep freedmen and other Republicans away from the polls. Nicholls had led in the balloting by some eight thousand votes, but the Republican-controlled State Returning Board cited fraud and declared Packard the victor. Pinchback, however, refused to support Packard and endorsed Nicholls.

The New York Times, in an article datelined New-Orleans, February 16, 1877, has the headline "The Democratic Assassin. Gov. Packard's Attempted Murder.". At that time in New York, Packard was perceived to be Governor of Louisiana. The article describes the wounded condition of the assassin William H. Weldon, after being himself wounded in the attempt.

After the contested election of 1876, the Democratic-backed legislature, allied with Democratic Governor Francis T. Nicholls, selected Henry M. Spofford as United States Senator. However the Republican-dominated legislature, allied with Republican Governor Packard, had separately selected William Pitt Kellogg. The United States Senate, which was at the time dominated by the so-called Radical faction of the Republican party, refused to seat Spofford.

In the Compromise of 1877, the incoming Republican President Rutherford B. Hayes recognized Nicholls as the legitimate Louisiana governor. In exchange the Louisiana electoral votes were cast for the Hayes-William Wheeler ticket. Similarly, Hayes had recognized the "Redeemer" Democrat Wade Hampton, III, a Confederate general, as governor of South Carolina, rather than the incumbent Republican Daniel H. Chamberlain. As a result of the national compromise, the US government removed remaining federal troops from Louisiana and South Carolina, despite the pattern of violence and assassinations related to elections.

As a reward for his services to the party, which had then acquired the nickname Grand Old Party, or GOP, Packard was named United States consul at Liverpool. Packard's was the last strong Republican campaign for governor until 1964, when Charlton H. Lyons, Sr., a former Democrat, launched a campaign to rejuvenate the previously moribund GOP in Louisiana.

Stephen B. Packard is inurned beside the remains of his son, Stephen B. Packard, Jr., at the Washelli Columbarium at Evergreen Washelli Memorial Park in Seattle, Washington.

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