Governor's Getting the Heave-ho
(Reworked from episode broadcast on January 23, 2002)
January 28, 2004
Johnstonís fascination with mysticism seems odd to us now, but in the twenties interest in the occult
and such things was almost a fad among members of high society. What is more interesting, and the time
limit didn't allow this to be brought out on air, was Johnstonís undying loyalty to his friends. He fully
knew that if he didn't fire Hammonds and Armstrong he would be found guilty of incompetence yet he believed
in them and gave them his word that he wouldn't let them go. When Johnston passed away most of his papers
and some of his personal items were given to OSU. You can go to the Dean's office and see Johnstonís great
grandfather clock or the Special Collections office and sift through any number of his personal correspondence in the collection.
The Henry Johnston Collection is held at OSU's Special Collections & University Archives.
Chronicles of Oklahoma (Sum. 1999). 77 (2).
Governor's getting the heave-ho this week on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.
Hello, I'm Steven Knoche Kite.
The story of Henry S. Johnston and his role as governor of Oklahoma is an interesting and unusual slice
of history. Johnston grew up in Kansas and settled in Perry, Oklahoma Territory shortly after the run
of 1889. Johnston was initially a successful attorney, but his life took a turn for the worse when he
was elected governor in 1927.
Johnston was an ardent student of supernatural phenomena. He believed in and practiced numerology,
astrology and hypnosis and was a member of the mystical Rosicrucian Order. Johnston decided that he needed
a private secretary, no other governor had ever had one, and chose for that position one O. O. "Mamie"
Hammonds. Ms. Hammonds shared the same interests and beliefs as Johnston, and questions as to the exact
nature of their relationship began to circulate among politicians. Ms. Hammonds was given an extraordinary
amount of responsibility and control over the business of the governor, and soon she was controlling who
did and did not speak with or see the governor. It was widely suspected that she would hypnotize governor
Johnston while she signed and decided upon various pieces of legislation. Ms. Hammonds at one point admitted
that she could astrally project herself out of her physical body and she did so on various occasions,
with the approval of the governor, in order to check up on various possible job candidates. Rumors, myth
and facts mingled, as they will often do, and soon it was reported that Ms. Hammonds could change into
vapor at which point she would float through the keyhole into the governor's office for suspicious private
Johnston was in trouble, and it did not help matters that he took as his personal advisor the uncle
of his secretary, Judge Armstrong. Armstrong advised clients based on signs of the zodiac, followed transcendental practices and kept caged canaries in his office to communicate with spirits. In addition to his association with what the legislature called "nymphs, gnomes and newts", Johnston made plenty of standard enemies with his politics and his handling of gubernatorial business.
Only ten months into his term in 1927 an attempt to impeach Johnston failed, but a second try took
place in 1929. His politics were disliked, but it was his "spooky" and controlling friends that led the
second attempt at impeachment. The official impeachment of Oklahoman's seventh governor Henry S. Johnston
took place this week in 1929. The trial lasted just over two months, and by March, Johnston, dismissed
on charges of general incompetence, was free now to do as he wished, returning to his Perry, Oklahoma
law practice, passing away in 1965.
I'm Steven Knoche Kite.
The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a joint production of the Oklahoma State University Library and Oklahoma's Public Radio.