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Gregory Watson


Gregory Watson

Gregory Watson has been employed in the Texas Legislature from 1982 to present. He currently works for a member of the Harris County delegation to the Texas House of Representatives. In 1982, Watson started the momentum behind the unusual ratification process of the Twenty-seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution. He is described as the "National Coordinator of the Political Movement to Ratify the 27th Amendment" in the case of Schaffer, et al. v. Clinton, et al. (later styled as Schaffer v. O'Neill), litigated in the federal courts of the United States.

Watson's involvement with the 27th Amendment

In 1982, while researching the proposed—but not ratified—Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution (ERA) of a decade earlier for a paper in a government class that he was taking at the University of Texas at Austin, Watson came across documentation of another unratified constitutional amendment which Congress had presented to America's state lawmakers. This other proposal, dating back to the 1st Congress in 1789, had been authored by James Madison, then a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Madison's proposal would delay congressional pay raises until the electorate got a chance to respond. The one-sentence constitutional amendment reads:

No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.

Intrigued, Watson switched the subject of his paper from the ERA to the 1789 proposal and researched what was a still-pending constitutional amendment, despite 192 years having elapsed. Watson's paper argued that—unlike the ERA—the 1789 amendment had no deadline within which the nation's state legislatures must have acted upon it and that it could belatedly become part of the U.S. Constitution. His report further recommended—on policy grounds—that the amendment should be ratified, as delaying changes of congressional salary would be beneficial against corruption. His instructor, Sharon Waite, gave Watson a 'C' on the paper, explaining that he had failed to make a convincing case that the amendment was still subject to being approved by the state legislatures nearly two centuries later and that the topic was irrelevant to modern government. In short, she said, his thesis was "unrealistic." [1]

Undeterred, Watson set out to secure the amendment's incorporation into the Federal Constitution. Early in 1982, he undertook a letter-writing campaign to strategically targeted states. Initial reaction was swift. The first result was ratification by Maine lawmakers (April 1983), followed by ratification in the Colorado General Assembly (April 1984). Over the course of ten years, the legislatures of more and more states were persuaded to ratify Madison's original proposal. On May 19, 1992, the Archivist of the United States certified that the amendment's ratification was completed, with the legislatures of more than 38 states ratifying it.[2] On May 20, 1992, both houses of Congress adopted resolutions agreeing with the Archivist's conclusion. (Subsequently, it came to light that in 1792 the Kentucky General Assembly had ratified all 12 original articles of amendments during that state's initial month of statehood.)[3]

Stephen Frantzich, a Political Science professor at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, tracked down Sharon Waite, but by then she had no recollection of Watson, or of many students in her lecture classes at the University of Texas, each with some 300 students. Frantzich researched Watson's campaign further, and made "the stepfather of the 27th Amendment" the subject of the first chapter in his book, Citizen Democracy: Political Activists in a Cynical Age (1999, 2004, 2008).[4]

In later years, Watson joined a lawsuit filed by former Republican U.S. Representative Bob Schaffer of Colorado, and others, in an attempt to reverse automatic mid-term, cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) pay raises for members of Congress. The lawsuit was rejected by two federal courts. The United States Supreme Court refused certiorari because Congressman Schaffer could not establish sufficient proof that he was personally harmed by automatic yearly COLA pay raises.

Post-Ratification of 13th Amendment by Mississippi

In 1994, with the 27th Amendment already ratified, Watson verified that the Mississippi Legislature had never ratified the 13th Amendment (abolishing slavery). The only official pronouncement of Mississippi lawmakers as to the 13th Amendment was a resolution adopted in 1865 specifically rejecting the 13th Amendment. After Kentucky legislators took belated favorable action in 1976, Mississippi was left standing alone for 19 years as the only state in the Union both before and after Congress proposed the 13th Amendment to have never—even symbolically—gone on record in support of it.

During the summer of 1994, Watson sent letters to all African-American members of the Mississippi Senate and the Mississippi House of Representatives informing them of Mississippi's status as to the 13th Amendment and he enclosed with each letter a draft resolution for the Mississippi Legislature to adopt in order to ceremonially post-ratify the 13th Amendment. In March 1995, Mississippi's Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 547 was adopted, thereby making Mississippi the final state to approve the 13th Amendment, albeit 130 years tardy.

Post-Ratification of 15th Amendment by Tennessee

Similar circumstances existed with respect to the Tennessee General Assembly as to the 15th Amendment (establishing the right of adult males of all races to vote). In 1997, as a result of Watson's research and initiative in 1996, Tennessee lawmakers, as a symbolic gesture, post-ratified the 15th Amendment with the adoption of House Joint Resolution No. 32. In response, on October 8, 1997, former U.S. Representative Harold E. Ford, Jr. of Tennessee placed a substantial tribute to Watson in the Congressional Record.

Post-Ratification of 24th Amendment by Texas

Texas State Representative Alma A. Allen of Houston, at Watson's prompting, introduced House Joint Resolution No. 39 during the Regular Session of the 81st Texas Legislature to post-ratify the 24th Amendment (prohibiting Congress or the states from conditioning the right to vote in Federal elections on payment of a poll tax or other tax). The Texas Legislature adopted H.J.R. No. 39 on May 22, 2009, thereby symbolically post-ratifying the 24th Amendment, 45 years after that amendment had been incorporated into the Federal Constitution.

Recognition by former Chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission

In a speech delivered in Chicago, Illinois, on May 18, 2007, during the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago's 43rd Annual Conference on Bank Structure and Competition, former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox, remarked on Watson's role in amending the Federal Constitution by noting: "The true story is that in 1982, a student at the University of Texas was doing research for his government class, and he stumbled across this unratified constitutional amendment from 1789. He convinced himself that nothing in Article V of the Constitution, which governs amendments, put any time limit on ratification, and so he personally set out on a campaign to revive it. He began writing to state legislators around the nation who kicked it back into life. That undergrad, Gregory Watson, stuck to his goal, until 10 years later, in 1992, the newest Amendment to the Constitution took effect."

Recognition by Member of Canadian Parliament

Pointing to Watson's work on the 27th Amendment, a member of Canada's House of Commons, the Honorable Scott Reid, on June 7, 2001, specifically cited Watson by name during the course of floor debate on the issue of the compensation of officials within the Canadian government by declaring: "The willingness of elected representatives to compensate themselves generously grew to the point that by the 1980s a Texas legislative aide, Gregory Watson, felt compelled to take up the cause. He built a cross-country coalition that convinced the legislatures of 32 states to complete the ratification process. With the simultaneous ratification on May 7, 1992, of the Michigan and New Jersey state legislatures, Madison's proposal became the 27th amendment to the United States' constitution."

Mentioned by name during floor debate on Capitol Hill

During floor debate in the United States House of Representatives on January 23, 2013, on the bill H.R. 325 (known as "No Budget, No Pay"), Republican Michigan Congresswoman Candice Miller specifically mentioned Watson by name, with respect to the 27th Amendment, and read into the Congressional Record a quotation from Watson that had recently appeared in the District of Columbia's newspaper The Washington Times.


  1. ^ Stephen E. Frantzich, Citizen Democracy: Political Activists in a Cynical Age, (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999), pp. 12-14;27: Congressional pay raises
  2. ^ Congressional Record of the 102nd Congress, Volume 138 - Part 9, May 19, 1992, p. 11656.
  3. ^ Kentucky Original Acts of 1792, Chapter XVII, pp. 25-27. This book is in the Kentucky State Law Library
  4. ^ Frantzich, Citien Democracy, p. 14; John Dean, The Telling Tale of the Twenty-Seventh Amendment: A Sleeping Amendment Concerning Congressional Compensation Is Later Revived


  • Schaffer vs. Clinton no. 99-1385
  • Schaffer vs. O'Neill - U.S. Supreme Court
  • - The Telling Tale Of The Twenty-seventh Amendment
  • Tennessee General Assembly Symbolically Post-Ratifies Constitution's 15th Amendment
  • Remarks of Canadian Member of Parliament the Honorable Scott Reid
  • Indiana University - Getting Involved: Individuals Can Make a Difference
  • Watson's name on a set of committee minutes during the 2005 regular session of the Texas Legislature
  • Texas Legislature phone directory
  • The Straight Dope: What's up with the 27th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution?
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