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MICHAEL V. DISALLE

1959- 1963

In the 1956 gubernatorial election C. William O'Neill defeated Michael V. DiSalle, but two years later the tables were turned and DiSalle won the governorship over O'Neill by a decisive margin to be- come Ohio's sixtieth governor and the first to serve a four-year term as a result of a constitutional change in 1954.

Michael DiSalle, the oldest of seven children of Anthony and As- sunta DiSalle, was born in New York City on January 6, 1908. When he was three years of age, the family became residents of Toledo, Ohio, where the future governor attended public and parochial schools. He was graduated with a degree in law from Georgetown University, Wash- ington, D. C., in 1931 and began legal practice in Toledo the following year. He is married to the former Myrtle England of Washington, D. C., and they are the parents of four daughters and one son.

DiSalle's aptitude for public office was apparent early in his career. While still in his teens, he was elected president of the Toledo Junior Safety Council, and in 1936 he was elected to the Ohio House of Repre- sentatives. Sixty days after being seated he was named by Columbus legislative correspondents as one of the five outstanding members of the house, the only freshman representative on the list. Two years later he was nominated for state senator, but was defeated in a Republican land- slide, which sent John W. Bricker to the governor's office and an over- whelming majority of Republicans to the general assembly.

Between 1938 and 1950, DiSalle served the city of Toledo for three years as assistant law director, five terms as city councilman, two terms as vice mayor, and one term as mayor. He is generally credited with initiating many progressive municipal programs, of making the city of Toledo free of debt, and with originating the city's labor-management citizens committee, a plan widely copied by other municipalities. His municipal services brought him numerous honors, including the chair- manship of the Advisory Board of the United States Conference of Mayors and his selection as one of four United States mayors delegated to attend the International Union of Cities, which met in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1949.

Reelected mayor in 1950, DiSalle resigned to become director of price stabilization, a national office he held with distinction from 1950 until 1952 when he resigned to make a run for the United States Senate. He won the Democratic nomination for the office, but was defeated in November by Senator John W. Bricker, who easily won reelection in the Eisenhower landslide. DiSalle, however, ran 200,000 votes ahead of Adlai E. Stephenson, the Democratic presidential nominee, on Ohio ballots.

After his defeat for the senate, DiSalle returned to his law practice in Toledo, but remained active in politics. His party nominated him for governor in 1956, but he was defeated in the election by C. William O'Neill by a margin of over 427,000 votes. In 1958, DiSalle again won the nomination for governor, this time over six opponents, and in the election handed O'Neill a decisive defeat, the vote being 1,869,265 for DiSalle to 1,414,874 for the Republican candidate. Contributing factors toward Governor O'Neill's failure to win reelection were probably the economic recession of 1958 and the opposition of organized labor to the governor's active support of right-to-work legislation.

Inaugurated on January 12, 1959, Governor DiSalle proved to be a forceful administrator. He secured nearly half a billion dollars for increased expenditures for his first biennium in spite of strong Republican opposition. The additional revenues were derived principally from in- creased taxes on cigarettes, beer, gasoline, corporation franchises, and sales taxes. Sales tax exemptions were lowered from forty-one to thirty- one cents. Early in 1941, the Ohio governor was mentioned prominently as a favorite-son candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. He threw his support, however, to John F. Kennedy, and the entire Ohio delegation followed his lead and voted for Kennedy on the first ballot.

Ohio Republicans generally criticized the DiSalle administration for the heavy expenditures for state government, and many' conservatives who had voted Democratic in 1958 returned to the Republican ranks in 1960 giving the Republican presidential nominee, Richard M. Nixon, a larger plurality in Ohio than in any other state and creating a Republican- dominated general assembly.

In January 1961, DiSalle submitted to the general assembly a budget calling for an increase of nearly $150,000,000 for the biennium 1961-63. In his opinion, the larger expenditures were needed mainly for upgrading educational programs, improving conditions at correctional and mental institutions, expanding the state highway patrol, and providing for ad- ditional capital improvements. The general assembly drastically cut many of the budget items and the governor reacted by vetoing the entire appropriation bill for the last half of the 1961-63 biennium on the ground that it was wholly inadequate. Such a veto was without precedent in the state's history. Finally a smaller appropriation bill was passed, but many sections went into effect without the governor's approval.

Although Governor DiSalle had stated in the fall of 1961 that he would not be a candidate for reelection, he was persuaded to announce his candidacy in January 1962. A citizens' committee supported his cause by issuing a pamphlet outlining one hundred and fifty reasons why DiSalle should be reelected. Among the reasons given were the improve- ments under his administration in facilities and services for mental hygiene patients and the mentally retarded; improved highway safety, construc- tion, and maintenance; support of higher education by creating scholar- ship funds and authorizing community colleges and university branches; and aid to public schools by the development of programs for the aca- demically gifted, increased minimum teachers' salaries, and the creation of an educational television commission. The committee cited also num- erous advances in the fields of health, industrial development, state personnel, finance, management of natural resources, public welfare, ag- riculture, and many others.

In spite of this impressive list of accomplishments and a vigorous campaign on the part of the Democrats, the governor went down to an overwhelming defeat by the Republican candidate, James A. Rhodes, who campaigned principally on a platform of economy in state expenditures. The vote tallied 1,836,432 for Rhodes to 1,280,521 for Governor DiSalle.

During his term as governor, DiSalle was accorded numerous honors. He received honorary L. L. D. degrees from the universities of Miami, Bowling Green, Kent State, Toledo, and Akron. In 1960, he was one of four governors to be appointed by President Kennedy to the President's Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations.

Strongly opposed to capital punishment, Governor DiSalle com- muted the death sentences of six persons but took no action in six other cases. He has written a book, The Power of Life and Death, which gives his experiences as governor and sets forth his philosophy on the subject.

After the expiration of his term of office, Governor DiSalle resumed the private practice of law with offices in Washington, D. C., and in Columbus, where he makes his home. Although he has not held public office since 1963, he is still influential in the state and national councils of the Democratic party. The Ohio Historical Society

S. WINIFRED SMITH

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