Benjamin Franklin Overton had an interest in the tribal affairs of the Chickasaw Nation from an early age. He served in both the house and senate of the Chickasaw legislature, and has served as a delegate for the Chickasaw tribe to Washington numerous times throughout his career. In 1874, Overton became a candidate for governor, opposing the incumbent Governor Cyrus Harris.
Overton and Harris were the absolute opposite of each other in terms of their leadership styles and political factions. Overton was aggressive—there was nothing laid-back about the policies that he implemented. Both Overton and Harris, however, were astute politicians. Overton went on to win the tense 1874 election and then was reelected in 1876.
The governor had a no-nonsense reputation. He was known for being strict and getting a lot accomplished, and he definitely did not abide by the laissez-faire mentality.
Overton was also a firm advocate for the improvement of Chickasaw education and established the Chickasaw neighborhood school system. He dedicated his efforts to the welfare of his people. As the second term of Governor Overton drew to a close in 1878, he yielded the position to his brother-in-law, Benjamin C. Burney, who had previously served as the Chickasaw national treasurer.
In 1880, however, Overton was once again elected governor of the Chickasaw Nation, following Governor Burney’s one term. He was reelected in 1882, and passed away on February 8, 1884, during his fourth term as governor of the Chickasaw Nation.