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Moura Cavalcanti

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Lawyer, administrator, politician, speaker and memorialist from Pernambuco


Moura Cavalcanti

Article available in: PT-BR ESP

Last update: 11/10/2017

By: Maria do Carmo Gomes de Andrade - Librarian of the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco

José Francisco de Moura Cavalcanti, lawyer, administrator, politician, orator and Pernambuco memoirist, descendent from a traditional aristocratic family from Pernambuco Northern Forest Zone’s sugarcane region, also with a grand political tradition, was Pernambuco governor from 1975 to 1979, appointed by the then-president, General Ernesto Geisel.

He was born at the Cipó Branco sugarcane plantation, owned by his family in the municipality of Macaparana, on 30 October 1925, to Colonel João Francisco de Moura Cavalcanti and Áurea de Moura Cavalcanti. He was a typical sugarcane plantation son until the age of nine, when he was orphaned and began living under the tutelage of his maternal grandfather.

He began his studies in Macaparana but moved to Recife at the age of ten to study at Nobrega College, where he spent his entire adolescence in the company of Jesuit priests. He studied Geography and History at the Manuel da Nóbrega Faculty of Philosophy, Sciences and Letters. After having worked as an ad hoc lawyer, i.e. for a certain case and no other, and with his natural vocation for oratory, he decided to continue his studies. He was admitted into the Recife Faculty of Law, but he dropped out at the beginning of the course.

At eighteen, already out boarding school and living in a hostel, he met Maria Margarida, whom he began dating and months later who became his wife, settling on the Porteira da Pedra Farm in Paraíba. Maria Margarida Krause Gonçalves de Moura Cavalcanti, nicknamed Suçu, would be his companion for life.

José Francisco began his political career in 1946, when at only twenty years old, through democratic election and linked to the Social Democratic Party (PSD), he became mayor of Macaparana for the term of 1946 to 1950. When he finished his term in 1950, he left politics, and with the support of his wife, retook the entrance exams and returned to the Recife Faculty of Law, now dividing his time between School, the Porteira da Pedra Farm and the Cipó Branco Sugarcane Plantation.

He graduated in Law in 1954 and devoted himself to practicing law. He was an attorney and served as Military District Attorney of Pernambuco, Legal Assistant, Attorney and Attorney General of the Pernambuco Institute of Social Security (IPSEP), and the State Legal Attorney – a position he held until 1974, when he retired.

In 1961 he was appointed as Governor of Amapá by the president at the time, Jânio Quadros, remaining in office until the president’s resignation. Back in Pernambuco, he was the State Secretary of Administration in 1964. During Governor Nilo Coelho’s administration (1967-1971), Moura Cavalcanti was Pernambuco Special Secretary of State. In the government of General Garrastazu Médici, he was the first president of the Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA), from 1970 to 1973, when he assumed the Ministry of Agriculture. In this role, among other things, he created the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA). Appointed by President Ernesto Geisel, he was governor of Pernambuco from 1975 to 1979.

Among his accomplishments during the state government, the highlights include the construction of the Carpina and Goitá dams, the drainage of the entire Rio Capibaribe – measures to contain the great floods of Recife; the Integrated Passenger Terminal (TIP); the Transnordestina (Trans Northeast) Railroad and the Suape Industrial Complex.

At the end of his term, already ill, José Francisco de Moura Cavalcanti retired to private life in health care, but always followed the political events of the state, of the country and the world. He died in Recife on 28 November 1994, after several health complications.


Recife, 30 April 2008.
Updated on 14 September 2009.
Updated on 11 october 2017.

Translated by Peter Leamy, March 2012.




sources consulted

BIOGRAFIAS: José Francisco de Moura Cavalcanti.  Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: 14 abr. 2008.
CAVALCANTI, José Francisco de Moura. Brasis que vivi (memórias). Recife: Fundaj, Ed. Massangana, 1992.
JOSÉ Francisco de Moura Cavalcanti. Perfil Parlamentar Século XX, Assembléia Legislativa do Estado de Pernambuco. Disponível em: <>. Acesso em: 15 abr. 2008.
MOURA Cavalcanti [Foto neste texto]. Disponível em: Acesso em: 11 out. 2017.
SILVA, Hilo Lins e. Recife: conceitos e evoluções.  Recife: Câmara Municipal, 1984.

how to quote this text

Source: ANDRADE, Maria do Carmo. Moura Cavalcanti. Pesquisa Escolar Online, Joaquim Nabuco Foudation, Recife. Available at:  <>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009