João Pessoa Cavalcanti de Albuquerque was born in Umbuzeiro, Paraíba, on 24 January 1878.
He studied at the Paraíba Lyceum, in João Pessoa, the State capital, which at the time was also called Paraíba.
In 1894, he enrolled in the 27th Infantry Battalion of the capital, later going to Rio de Janeiro, where, in 1895, he enrolled in the Praia Vermelha Military School.
Accused of being a revolutionary, he did not complete the course, being expelled from the institution and sent to Belém, in Pará, where, as an unfit soldier, he was thrown out of the army for physical incapacity.
In 1899, he was appointed secretary at the Recife Faculty of Law, where he enrolled and finished the course in 1903.
He practised law, was a teacher and also education officer in Recife until 1910, when he decided to move to Rio de Janeiro, being nominated as a farming representative in the expropriation processes for improving Brazilian ports.
After passing a public exam for the Military Tribunal, he was appointed, in 1918, Naval auditor and, in 1919, minister of the Supreme Military Tribunal.
He was elected State President by the Republican Party of Paraíba, on 22 June 1928 and was sworn in three months later.
In two years in government, João Pessoa fought the misappropriation of taxes and ill-use of public money, restored the economy of Paraíba, stimulated agriculture and industry, opened Epitácio Pessoa Avenue, in the capital, and various other roads in the State, built bridges and Cabedelo Port, among other works.
João Pessoa was the nephew of Epitácio Pessoa, who was the president of the Republic from 1919 to 1922, and the grandnephew of the Baron of Lucena, provincial president of Pernambuco (1872-1875) and government minister of Deodoro da Fonseca (1889-1891).
In 1929, refusing to support the situationist candidacy of Júlio Prestes for President of the Republic, he was nominated by the Liberal Alliance as the candidate for the Vice–Presidency of the Republic, in opposition to the federal government, whose ticket was lead by Getúlio Vargas and supported by the states of Minas Gerais and Rio Grande do Sul.
Having been defeated, he faced revolts in Paraíba, such as the one in the town of Princesa, commanded by Colonel José Pereira, who supported Júlio Prestes. He ordered an invasion, by the Paraíba police, of the offices and residences of people suspected of housing armaments for the rebels, managing to stifle the rebellion.
In one of these invasions, at the home of João Dantas, an ally of Col. José Pereira, intimate correspondence between Dantas and his lover were found and released to the Paraíba press, causing a huge scandal in Paraíba high society.
A little later, on 26 July 1930, during a visit to Recife, João Pessoa was assassinated by João Dantas, with two shots from point blank range in a downtown candy store.
The incident had huge repercussions in Brazil, giving rise to a wave of public demonstrations, and is considered as one of the factors that lead to the Revolution of 1930.
The body of João Pessoa was taken by the leaders of the Liberal Alliance to Rio de Janeiro where it was buried.
In September 1930, during the Getúlio Vargas government, the state capital of Paraíba was renamed João Pessoa.
Recife, 27 May 2005.
(Updated on 11 September 2009).
Translated by Peter Leamy, February 2011.
BIOGRAFIA de João Pessoa. Available at: <http://www.pbnet.com.br/>. Access: 23 maio 2005.
BIOGRAFIAS: João Pessoa. Available at: <http://www.cpdoc.fgv.br/>. Access: 23 maio 2005.
JOÃO Pessoa [Photo in this text]. Available at: <http://www.algosobre.com.br/images/stories/assuntos/biografias/Joao_Pessoa_Cavalcanti.jpg>. Access: 5 jan. 2009.
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Source: ANDRADE, Maria do Carmo. João Pessoa (Politician). Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Joaquim Nabuco Foudation, Recife. Available at: <http://basilio.fundaj.gov.br/pesquisaescolar/>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.