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Michael Vincent DiSalle

DiSalle on the TIME cover - March 19, 1949

In office
January 12, 1959 – January 14, 1963
Lieutenant John W. Donahey
Preceded by C. William O'Neill
Succeeded by Jim Rhodes

Born January 6, 1908
New York City, New York
Died September 14, 1981 (aged 73)
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Myrtle Eugene England
Profession Lawyer
Religion Catholic

Michael Vincent DiSalle (January 6, 1908 - September 14, 1981)[1] was a Democratic politician from Ohio. He served as the 60th Governor of Ohio.

He was born in New York City to Italian American immigrant parents. His family moved to Toledo, Ohio, when he was three years old. He graduated with a bachelor's degree from Georgetown University and married the former Myrtle E. England. The couple had four daughters and one son.[1]

DiSalle attended law school and was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1932.[1] He was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives in 1937, then ran for and was elected to a series of positions in Toledo. In 1946, DiSalle ran for a seat in the United States House of Representatives but lost to the incumbent, Republican Homer A. Ramey. DiSalle was elected as mayor of Toledo, and served from 1948 to 1950.[2]

He ran (unsuccessfully) for the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate in 1950.[2] In December 1950, President Harry S. Truman named DiSalle director of the Office of Price Stabilization, a Korean War-era agency which established and enforced wartime price controls. He resigned on January 23, 1952, to run for the Senate again, and lost in the general election to incumbent Republican Senator John W. Bricker.[3]

DiSalle was the Democratic Nominee for Governor of Ohio in 1956, but was defeated. In 1958 DiSalle had a rematch against his opponent, C. William O'Neill. This time DiSalle won. The length of the Governor's term had been increased to four years and DiSalle served from 1959 to 1963. In July 1959 DiSalle signed the bill making "With God, all things are possible" the official motto of the State of Ohio. The motto was taken from the Gospel of Matthew 19:26.

DiSalle was Ohio's favorite son candidate for the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 1960. He ran only in his home state, which he won by a comfortable margin of 60.25% against his opponent, Albert S. Porter[4]. This secured him a sixth place in total popular vote in the primaries (behind John F. Kennedy, Pat Brown, George H. McLain, Hubert Humphrey and George Smathers)[5].

He lost reelection as governor in 1962 after voters disapproved of his support for an end to capital punishment, a tax hike, and a state policy which billed wards of the state for living necessities.[2]

DiSalle was a death penalty opponent and commuted a number of sentences[6], despite allowing six executions as Governor[7]. DiSalle personally investigated all cases of people schedulded to be electrocuted and even personally met with some of them[8].

One of DiSalle's primary concerns regarding the death penalty was that poorer defendants did not have the same access to counsel as rich defendants, and therefore would suffer the death penalty disproportionately. He recalled: I found that the men in death row had one thing in common: they were penniless[9].

After leaving Governorship DiSalle co-founded and served as a chairman of the National Committee to Abolish Federal Death Penalty[10][9]. His 1965 book, The Power of Life and Death, discusses this issue and chronicles his difficult experiences as the man charged with making the final decision regarding a sentence commutation[11]. He is quoted in the book Mercy on Trial: What It Means to Stop an Execution as saying, "No one who has never watched the hands of a clock marking the last minutes of a condemned man's existence, knowing that he alone has the temporary Godlike power to stop the clock, can realize the agony of deciding an appeal for executive clemency."[12]

In 1966, he joined the Washington, D.C., law firm of Chapman, Duff & Paul.[1] The same year, DiSalle also authored the book Second Choice, a history of the U.S. vice presidency.[13]

DiSalle led a draft movement for Massachusetts Senator Edward M. Kennedy in 1968, and served as the honorary chairman of Kennedy's 1980 presidential bid.[1][2]

DiSalle died in 1981 of unreported causes while vacationing in Italy.[1]



Disalle has two structures in Ohio named for him:

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Michael V. DiSalle, 73, Former Governor of Ohio," New York Times, September 17, 1981.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Zimmerman, Call Me Mike: A Political Biography of Michael V. DiSalle, 2003.
  3. ^ Loftus, "Key Price Job Goes to Toledo's Mayor," New York Times, December 1, 1950; Marcus, Truman and the Steel Seizure Case: The Limits of Presidential Power, 1977; Egan, "DiSalle to Enter Race For Senate," New York Times, January 24, 1952.
  4. ^ Our Campaigns - OH US President - D Primary Race - May 03, 1960
  5. ^ Our Campaigns - US President - D Primaries Race - Feb 01, 1960
  6. ^ Martha Stephens, The Treatment: The Story of Those who Died in the Cincinnati Radiation Tests, 2001, p 201
  7. ^
  8. ^ Resistance to death penalty growing
  9. ^ a b Negating the Absolute - TIME
  10. ^ Wiley InterScience :: Session Cookies
  11. ^ DiSalle, The Power of Life or Death, 1965.
  12. ^ Sarat, Mercy on Trial: What It Means to Stop An Execution, 2005.
  13. ^ DiSalle, Second Choice, 1966.


  • DiSalle, Michael V. The Power of Life or Death. New York: Random House, 1965.
  • DiSalle, Michael V. Second Choice. Stroud, Gloucester, United Kingdom: Hawthorn Books, 1966.
  • Egan, Charles E. "DiSalle to Enter Race For Senate." New York Times. January 24, 1952.
  • Loftus, Joseph A. "Key Price Job Goes to Toledo's Mayor." New York Times. December 1, 1950.
  • Marcus, Maeva. Truman and the Steel Seizure Case: The Limits of Presidential Power. New York: Columbia University Press, 1977. ISBN 0231041268
  • "Michael V. DiSalle, 73, Former Governor of Ohio." New York Times. September 17, 1981.
  • Sarat, Austin. Mercy on Trial: What It Means to Stop An Execution. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2005. ISBN 0691121400
  • Zimmerman, Richard. Call Me Mike: A Political Biography of Michael V. DiSalle. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2003. ISBN 0873387554
Political offices
Preceded by
C. William O'Neill
Governor of Ohio
Succeeded by
Jim Rhodes
Preceded by
Lloyd Emerson Roulet
Mayor of Toledo
Succeeded by
Ollie Czelusta


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