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MYERS Y. COOPER

1929- 1931

Myers Y. Cooper, Cincinnati businessman and prominent Republican leader, was inaugurated as the fifty-first governor of Ohio on January 14, 1929. Born on a hill farm in Licking County, Ohio, on November 25, 1873, he was the youngest of eleven children of Lemuel and Ann Cooper, who had come to Ohio from Pennsylvania soon after the Civil War. He was educated in the one-room country school at Echo and at the National Normal University at Lebanon, Ohio, which he attended for two years.

In 1894 he joined two of his brothers, Sanson and James, in the real estate business in Cincinnati. After a few years of this joint effort he set up in business for himself, buying and selling real estate and constructing homes for sale, an activity in which he is still engaged. His other business interests, largely developed prior to his election as governor, include banking, lumber distribution, and coal mining.

Until Cooper became a candidate for governor in 1926, he had never run for public office. However, he had been identified closely with Republican party politics in Cincinnati since the turn of the century. He campaigned for Taft in 1908, but joined the Bull Moose movement in 1912, returning to the regular Republican fold in 1916. He was a delegate to a state Republican party convention during the Hanna hegemony and has been elected either a district or state delegate to every Republican national convention since 1916 except in 1928, when he successfully campaigned for governor.

It is well known that party regularity and competence as an administrator alone are not sufficient qualifications to render a man available for nomination for state-wide office. Cooper had these; he also had become well known throughout Ohio from the fact that he had served eleven years as president of the Ohio Fair Managers Associa- tion and three terms as president of the Ohio Council of Churches. In addition, he conducted a successful primary campaign for the Republi- can gubernatorial nomination in 1926, losing in the election to the incumbent, Vic Donahey, by a scant 17,000 votes. This campaign took him to every part of the state-and gave him a fine perspective on the needs of the state which might be met by the state government.

Cooper's plurality over the Democratic candidate, Martin L. Davey, in 1928, was overwhelming. It was a Republican year; Herbert Hoover went into the White House and all state offices in Ohio went to Republicans, except eleven members of the house of representatives. The stage was set for two years of unparalleled political harmony in the statehouse, which was all the more striking because of the contrast offered by Governor Donahey's incessant wrangling with the state legislature from 1923 to 1929.

The only session held by the eighty-eighth general assembly was short, adjourning on April 16, 1929; 222 bills were passed. The governor vetoed twenty-two and permitted three to become law without his signature. All the vetoes stuck. Every one of the eleven legislative recommendations made by the governor to the legislature became law. Among the principle legislative accomplishments were (1) repeal of the act permitting public utilities to put new rates into effect, pending their approval by the public utilities commission; (2) strengthening the investigative power of the public utilities commission; (3) strengthen- ing the "Blue Sky" law; (4) revision of the general corporation act; (5) revision of the code of criminal procedure; (6) strengthening the election laws; (7) enactment of a law requiring permanent registration of voters; (8) reestablishment of the state library; (9) construction of the Departments of State Building; (10) enactment of a law for the conservation of natural resources; (11) creation of a state bureau of aeronautics; (12) strengthening the state banking laws; (13) con- solidating parole services; (14) revising the highway code; and (15) providing for uniform veterans' guardianship.

Beyond this substantial accomplishment in new laws, one of the greatest achievements of the Cooper administration was its implementa- tion of the financial provisions of the Reorganization Act of 1921, which had been largely disused by his predecessors. For the first time in state history the assembly had enough confidence in the governor to enact the biennial appropriation act in lump-sum form. The governor was given power to restrain expenditures through an allotment system, accrual accounting, and pre-auditing of expenditures. These were firmly and constructively used. The budget document prepared for 1931-32 was of a most modern type. State purchasing practices were revised and modernized. A complete new classification plan for the state civil service %was prepared, although not in time for adoption-this step came only in 1949. Many other constructive accomplishments were recorded in all the broad area of state activities, including agriculture, commerce, public health, public welfare, highways, public works, educa- tion, and industrial relations.

The progressive and efficient service of the Cooper administration forms a bright chapter in the history of Ohio state government. However, the severe economic depression which paralyzed the world, heralded in the United States by the Wall Street crash of October 1929, has tended to overshadow, the accomplishments of this period in the public memory. Those who know the history of the state government, however, trace many of the improved administrative practices now in use in the state to the Cooper period.

In the 1930 elections Governor Cooper was nominated by the Republicans without opposition, but lost to the Democratic candidate, George White, by 109,630 votes. This %was a straw in the political wind that, in 1932, was to result in a Democratic national landslide. By that time it had become clear to all that depression, not recession, was the proper term for the economic situation. Those who occupied public office were among the victims.

After the inauguration of Governor White, Cooper returned to Cincinnati, where he continued with his successful business ventures and his service to his party, nation, state, and home community. In 1932 he again sought the Republican nomination for governor, but lost in the primary to David S. Ingalls of Cleveland, who, in turn, lost in the Democratic tide to Governor White. In 1936 he served as a member of the national Republican campaign staff. In 1938-41 he served as chairman of the committee on real estate taxation of the National Association of Real Estate Boards. During 1947-48 he was chairman of a commission appointed by Governor Thomas J. Herbert to select a new site for the Ohio Fair Grounds. Since 1933 he has been chairman of the Little Miami Conservancy District. In 1947 he served a one-year term as president of the National Exchange Clubs. During 1949-51 he was a member of Ohio's "Little Hoover Commission," which prepared for the consideration of the state government, proposals for administrative improvement and reform.

Governor Cooper was much sought after for his mature wisdom on public questions until his death at eighty-five years of age on December 7, 1958. He is survived by his wife, Martha Kinney Cooper, the founder of the Ohioana Library, a son, Raymond K. Cooper, and a daughter, Martha Ann (Mrs. F. Mills Judy). The Ohio State University

HARVEY WALKER

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