James Madison Wells
Born: January 8, 1808 near Alexandria, Louisiana
Political Affiliation: Republican
Religious Affiliation: Catholic
Education: St. Joseph's College (Bardstown, Kentucky); Alden Partridge's Academy (Middletown, Connecticut); Cincinatti Law School
Career Prior to Term: Lieutenant Governor
How He Became Governor: Succeeded when Hahn advanced to the U.S. Senate in 1865 and elected in November, 1865.
Career after Term: Chairman of the State Returning Board which reviewed election results.
Died: February 18, 1899 in Lecompte, Louisiana and is interred in Rapides Parish.
James Madison Wells became Governor upon the resignation of Governor Hahn who left office to serve in the U. S. Senate. As Hahn's Lieutenant Governor, Well's pro- Union stance was no secret, his opposition to black civil rights was, however, less well known.
As Governor, Wells took the side of those who wanted a mild Reconstruction: he supported President Andrew Johnson's plan of allowing quick Reconstruction led by former Confederates and he appointed ex-Confederates to office. In his first address to the legislature, he urged the end of public education and pushed for taxes from only blacks to pay for freedmen's schools.
In the second year of his term, Wells switched loyalties. He began supporting the policies of Radical Reconstruction which gave blacks the right to vote and urged the legislature to ratify the 14th Amendment and to fund black schools.
General Philip H. Sheridan, the head of the military district containing Louisiana, removed Wells from office. The districts had been created by the Military Reconstruction Act of 1867 and gave the Army power over civil authority. Sheridan did not trust Wells' unusual shift of allegiance.
The former governor returned home to Rapides Parish. He later held additional state offices, including Surveyor of Customs for the Port of New Orleans. He died in Lecompte in 1899.