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James Allen Rhodes

61st & 63rd Governor of Ohio
In office
January 14, 1963 – January 11, 1971
January 13, 1975 – January 10, 1983
Lieutenant John W. Brown
Richard F. Celeste (1975-1979)
George Voinovich (1979)
Preceded by Michael DiSalle (1963)
John J. Gilligan (1975)
Succeeded by John J. Gilligan (1971)
Richard F. Celeste (1983)

42nd Mayor of Columbus
In office
1944 – 1952
Preceded by Floyd F. Green
Succeeded by Robert Theodore Oestreicher

Born September 13, 1909
Coalton, Ohio
Died March 4, 2001 (aged 91)
Columbus, Ohio
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Helen Rawlins

James Allen Rhodes (September 13, 1909 – March 4, 2001) was an American Republican politician from Ohio, and as of 2006 one of only five U.S. state governors to serve four four-year terms in office. As governor in 1970, he decided to send National Guard troops onto the Kent State University campus, resulting in the shooting of students on May 4. Four students were killed and nine others were wounded, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis.[1]


Rhodes was born in Coalton, Jackson County, Ohio, to James and Susan Howe Rhodes, who were of Welsh descent.[2] Rhodes has commented that the reason he and his family were Republicans was because of the respect his father, a mine superintendent, had for John L. Lewis, a prominent Republican union activist.[2] When Rhodes was nine his father died and the family moved to north Springfield where Rhodes graduated from high school, after which the family moved again, this time to Columbus, because Rhodes earned a modest basketball scholarship to Ohio State University. Although Rhodes dropped out after his first quarter he is often described as a "student" or "alumnus" of Ohio State.[2] After dropping out of college Rhodes opened a business called Jim's Place across from the university on North High Street. Jim's Place has been described as a place where one could buy everything from doughnuts and hamburgers to stag films or place bets on numbers games.[2]

Beginning in 1934 Rhodes used his position as a local businessman to climb up the Columbus political ladder, first as a ward committeeman, the Columbus school-board, city auditor and eventually becoming the mayor of Columbus (1944-1952). It is during this time that he married Helen Rawlins. Rhodes' time as mayor is primarily marked by two achievements, the first being is ability to convince 67% of Columbus voters to approve the city's first income tax with the second being Rhodes' ability to use water gun diplomacy to annex much of the surrounding suburbs into Columbus. As surrounding communities grew or were constructed they required access to waterlines, which were under the sole control of the municipal water system, Rhodes told these communities that if they wanted water they would have to submit to annexation into Columbus. As a result of this Columbus, Ohio currently has the largest land area of any Ohio city.[2]

With an eye on the governorship, Rhodes was elected State Auditor in 1952, taking office in early 1953. In 1954 Rhodes ran against the popular incumbent Democratic governor Frank Lausche and lost by a 54% to 46% margin. In 1962 Rhodes ran again for governor, this time against Democratic incumbent Mike DiSalle. Rhodes' campaign centered on "jobs and progress," in speeches Rhodes routinely claimed that an increase in jobs would lead to a decrease in everything from crime and divorce to mental illness.[2] Rhodes also made DiSalle's tax increases, such as the gas tax, a prominent part of his campaign. Rhodes also weathered a minor scandal when Democratic state Chairman alleged that Rhodes diverted and borrowed a total of $54,000 from his campaign funds.[2] During a debate both Rhodes and DiSalle agreed that this was, "the most vicious campaign [of] the Ohio governorship."[2] On November 6th 1962 Ohioans voted Rhodes into the governorship with 59% of the vote.[2]

Rhodes served two terms as governor - he also was a "favorite son" Presidential candidate who controlled the Ohio delegation to the Republican National Conventions in 1964 and 1968 - before retiring in 1971. He ran for the U.S. Senate in 1970, narrowly losing the primary election to U.S. Representative Robert Taft, Jr. which was two days after the events at Kent State.

Rhodes oversaw two last (by electrocution) pre-Furman executions in Ohio[3] - both in early 1963. Ohio resumed executions in 1999.

At a news conference in Kent, Ohio, Sunday May 3, 1970, the day before the Kent State shootings, he said of campus protesters:

"They're worse than the Brownshirts and the Communist element and also the Night Riders and the vigilantes. They're the worst type of people that we harbor in America."[4]

The Ohio Constitution limits the governor to two four-year terms, so when Rhodes initially filed to run again in 1974, his petitions were refused by the Secretary of State. Rhodes sued and the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the limitation was on consecutive terms, thus freeing him to return to office in the 1974 election, narrowly defeating incumbent John Gilligan in an upset. He served two more terms before retiring again in 1983. During the energy crisis of the winter of 1976-77, Rhodes led a 15-minute service in which he "beseech[ed] God to relieve the storm."[5] The next year, January 1978, amid a blizzard which dropped 31 inches of snow onto Ohio and killed 60 people in the Northeast, Rhodes called the storm "the greatest disaster in Ohio history."[5]

Rhodes sought to run for the governorship again in 1986, seeking a record-breaking fifth term, but soundly lost to the incumbent Richard F. Celeste, whom Rhodes had narrowly defeated in his last successful gubernatorial bid in 1978.

Rhodes died in Columbus on March 4, 2001, and is interred at Green Lawn Cemetery, Columbus, Ohio. The James A. Rhodes State Office Tower, which is the tallest building in Columbus and the former home of the Ohio Supreme Court, is named in his honor.


  1. ^ Darrell Laurent, "Kent State — A history lesson that he teaches and lives - Dean Kahler disabled during 1970 student demonstration at Kent State University", Accent on Living, Spring 2001. Accessed at
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Zimmerman, Richard Z. (2007), Lamis, Alexander P.; Usher, Brian, eds., Ohio Politics: Revised and Updated, Kent, Ohio: The Kent State University Press, pp. 85–108, ISBN 978-0-87338-613-5  
  3. ^
  4. ^ Bills, Shirley; Bills, Scott L. (1988), Scott L. Bills, ed., Kent State/May 4: Echoes Through a Decade, Kent, Ohio: The Kent State University Press, p. 13, ISBN 978-0-87338-360-8  
  5. ^ a b Frum, David (2000). How We Got Here: The '70s. New York, New York: Basic Books. p. 322. ISBN 0465041957.  

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Floyd F. Green
Mayor of Columbus
Succeeded by
Robert Theodore Oestreicher
Preceded by
Michael DiSalle
Governor of Ohio
Succeeded by
John J. Gilligan
Preceded by
John J. Gilligan
Governor of Ohio
Succeeded by
Dick Celeste
Legal offices
Preceded by
Joseph T. Ferguson
Ohio State Auditor
Succeeded by
Roger W. Tracy Jr.

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