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Fundamental Documents of Ohio







1947- 1949

The Republican landslide in Ohio in 1946 brought to the office of chief executive of the state as Ohio's fifty-sixth governor, Thomas J. Herbert, who was well known to Ohio voters, having served as attorney general for three terms.

Herbert was born in Cleveland on October 28, 1894. His parents, John T. and Jane Jones Herbert, were both descendants of Welsh settlers of Jackson County, Ohio, where his four grandparents and eight great grandparents all are buried.

After graduation from the public schools of Cleveland, Thomas Herbert attended Adelbert College, Western Reserve University, and Western Reserve University Law School, graduating from the former in 1915 and from the latter in June 1920. His legal education was interrupted by military service in World War I. He enrolled in the first officers' training school at Fort Benjamin Harrison, and after a period of training there and at Ohio State University, he volunteered to fly in Italy. He did not reach Italy, however, but served as a first lieutenant in the United States air forces, attached to the 56th British Royal Air Force squadron. On his third mission, while giving air support to Allied forces at Belleau Wood, he was shot down and wounded August 8, 1918, at Cambrai, France. Hospitalized for two years, he was honorably discharged in May 1920, after having reentered law school awhile still walking with crutches. He was awarded the British Distinguished Flying Cross, the American Distinguished Service Cross, and the Purple Heart for his heroism in service.

Herbert was admitted to the bar in December 1919, and in 1921 he began his public career as assistant director of law for the city of Cleveland. He was next appointed assistant prosecuting attorney for Cuyahoga County, serving two years, 1922-23. His first state office was that of assistant attorney general of Ohio, in which position he was assigned as attorney for the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, 1929-33. In 1936 he ran on the Republican ticket for the office of attorney general, but lost the contest by 280,000 votes in the election in which Alfred Landon, the Republican presidential candidate, lost Ohio by a staggering total of 620,000. Two years later he was elected attorney general and inaugurated in January 1939 for the first of three consecutive terms. While attorney general, Herbert was a member of the Board of Managers of the Council of State Governments and of the House of Delegates of the American Bar Association, serving on some of their important committees. His election to the presidency of the National Association of Attorneys General is further indication of his eminence in the office.

He sought the Republican nomination for governor in 1944, but lost out by 2,000 votes to James G. Stewart, who in turn lost the election to Frank J. Lausche. Two years later, however, Herbert won the nomina- tion and the election, administering the only defeat Governor Lausche has met in his five campaigns for the governorship. In 1948 the tables were turned, and Lausche won over Herbert by a substantial majority.

During Governor Herbert's administration, 1947-49, a number of constructive measures were enacted at the governor's urging or with his approval. Most important, in the governor's opinion, were six bills reducing or eliminating certain taxes (the tax on sales amounting to less than forty-one cents was rescinded), with a saving to the taxpayers of $86,000,000 and two bills appropriating a total of $45,000,000 from the surplus in the treasury for compensation to World War II veterans. His administration inaugurated and nearly completed a large building construction program in the welfare department. The Mount Vernon State Hospital for the tuberculous mentally ill, the only one in the United States, was dedicated by Governor Herbert in 1947. Much progress was made also in the departments of health, industrial relations, and agriculture. Agriculture benefited especially because of the im- proved plant and animal disease control program. School appropriations were increased approximately $49,000,000 over those of the previous administration. His administration was responsible for paving more miles of new road and resurfacing more miles of old road than in any previous biennium. Governor Herbert placed inspectors in the liquor department under classified civil service for the first time and eliminated surplus liquor stocks from the inventory. He courageously vetoed the popular Van Aken labor bill because he believed it unworkable and detrimental to the best interests of both labor and management. Governor Herbert proved himself a wise and resourceful leader. Mild in manner and unassuming, he was capable of aggressive action when he deemed it necessary.

Thomas Herbert was married in 1919 to Jeannette Judson, who died in 1945, leaving a daughter and two sons. The daughter, Mrs. Charles Lewis Stevers, was hostess for her father at the executive mansion until his marriage on January 3, 1948, to Miss Mildred Stevenson of Indian- apolis, Indiana, who became a gracious first lady. At the close of his term the governor returned to Cleveland and engaged in the private practice of law. In May 1953 he was appointed by President Eisenhower a member of the Subversive Activities Control Board. He was made the chairman and served on the board until his resignation the first of January 1957. In November 1956 he had been elected a judge of the Ohio su- preme court by an overwhelming majority over Evan P. Ford. Sworn into office by Chief Justice Weygandt on January 3, 1957, he served one term on the bench until January 1962, when he retired from public life. Mrs. Herbert died in 1962, and the former governor is now living in Upper Arlington with his younger daughter, Rosemary Jane, a student at Ohio State University. His son John is at present treasurer of the state of Ohio. The Ohio Historical Society


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