||MYRON T. HERRICK
When, on the morning of May 21, 1927, the word reached Ambas- sador Myron T. Herrick that Charles A. Lindbergh was nearing France on the first solo flight from America, he sensed both a duty and an opportunity. When the flyer landed at Le Bourget Field, he was met by a tremendous crowd, including Ambassador Herrick, who gave him a hearty welcome and assumed charge of his entertainment and itinerary. The reception and friendship tendered by the ambassador were but an expression of the kindliness and graciousness which had characterized the man.
It was a far cry from this dramatic episode to the circumstances of Herrick's birth at Huntington, Lorain County, Ohio, on October 9, 1854. The boy, who was born in a cabin built by his grandfather, received his first incentive to go to college from Henry Ward Beecher's novel, Norwood, in which the hero worked his way through school. At the age of thirteen Myron Herrick rode a horse to Oberlin to see a college commencement for the first time. Before long he was at Oberlin for study, doing odd jobs to defray expenses. As soon as he could qualify, he taught school for two years. Then he left on a business venture to St. Louis, where he wrote articles for a newspaper, and a reporting trip through the Kansas cattle country. Home again with 700 dollars, he spent two years at Ohio Wesleyan University before leaving to study law in Cleveland.
Passing the bar examination in 1878, he started his professional career in Cleveland. His energy and business contacts led him into business, and he participated in the formation of the Cleveland Hardware Company, the National Carbon Company, and the Euclid Avenue National Bank, of which he became a director. At one point he was induced to sign the note of a client, who quickly failed. Although he could have escaped responsibility through a technicality, Herrick, with the support of his young wife, Carolyn Parmely, assumed the debt. This act so impressed certain of the influential bank directors, notably Marcus A. Hanna, that they directed to him sufficient business to pay the entire obligation.
In 1886 the thriving Society for Savings, a Cleveland bank, offered him the post of secretary. In large part it was upon the recommendation of Hanna, who said, "He is young and he may not know anything about banking but I can tell you one thing, he will not steal your money." Apart from his knowledge of banking, Cleveland businessmen valued his honesty, charm, and gracious manners, which overcame many a barrier in the business world. Serving his apprenticeship under the astute Samuel H. Mather, he became successively president and chairman of the board of the Society for Savings, and forwarded the building of its million-dollar home on the Public Square.
It was natural that the young attorney, banker, and businessman should become interested in civic affairs and politics. From 1885 to 1888 he served creditably and courageously on the Cleveland City Council. In the latter year he won the designation of first delegate to the Republican national convention over Mark Hanna, but won the latter's friendship by graciously suggesting that he should receive that honor. He was now a factor to be reckoned with in politics. Subsequently he served on the state executive committee, as Ohio commissioner to the centennial of Washington's inauguration, as presidential elector in 1892, as a member of Governor McKinley's staff, and as a delegate to the Republican national convention in 1896. Herrick's entry into elective state office came in 1903 at the suggestion of Senator Hanna. He was nominated for governor by acclamation and was opposed by the colorful Tom L. Johnson, who stressed the single-tax theories of Henry George. In the election Herrick received a plurality of 113,812.
After his inauguration on January 11, 1904, Governor Herrick, was confronted with the problems and intricacies of Ohio Republican politics, torn into factions led by Senator Hanna, George B. Cox of Cincinnati, and Senator Joseph B. Foraker. Although he paid careful attention to sound financial practices and efficient administration, he reaped a whirlwind of discontent from certain of his actions. When Herrick approved a school bill opposed by Cuyahoga interests, it was said bitterly that he had "surrendered to Cox." When the Chisholm Bill was passed allowing betting at race tracks, Herrick, who was the first governor of the state to have the veto power, disapproved the bill on constitutional and moral grounds. Many Cleveland friends thought that he was committed otherwise and protested strongly. The church groups who approved his action soon turned against him over the local option issue.
When the Brannock Bill, a local option bill, was nearing passage he forced certain changes which he regarded as necessary to make it a fair and workable measure. The anti-saloon leaders considered the action a defeat for themselves, and succeeded in alienating the church support which Herrick had gained through the veto of the race track bill. At the same time the liquor interests resented any legislation on the subject. All this came to a focus in the next election, in the fall of 1905, when Governor Herrick lost to the Democratic nominee, John M. Pattison, and returned to his business interests in Cleveland.
To his three distinct careers-law, politics, and business-Herrick was soon to add a fourth and more distinguished career in the diplomatic service. Both McKinley and Roosevelt had offered Herrick the ambas- sadorship to Italy. In both instances he preferred to remain in business, but in 1912, when President Taft offered him the diplomatic post at Paris, he accepted, with the understanding that he would prepare a report on rural credit systems in Europe, a purpose which he carried out. Upon the inauguration of Woodrow Wilson, Ambassador Herrick offered his resignation. He carried on, however, at the president's request, and it was not until November 28, 1914, that he was relieved. It was during this period that he performed his most distinguished service. With the outbreak of the war, he was asked to care for the interests of the Central Powers in addition to fulfilling the greatly augmented duties to his own country. A decision of great importance was that to stay at his post as the Germans approached in what appeared to be an overpowering thrust toward Paris. The French government left for Bordeaux on September 2, 1914, and nearly all the diplomatic corps followed immediately. Herrick decided to remain to represent his country's interests in the event of a German occupation of the city. His burdens were increased by the necessity of representing various countries whose representatives had gone to Bordeaux. During this period he narrowly escaped a German bomb-an incident widely commented upon as indicating his devotion to duty. The Germans were thrown back, the city was saved, and Herrick, because of his devotion to duty, was enshrined in the hearts of the French people.
The year 1921 saw him again in Paris as ambassador. He was greeted by the French as an old and true friend. With his customary graciousness he labored for eight years in the difficult post-war recon- struction period. The hard work was lightened by his pleasant relation- ships, but his strength gradually failed. Weakened by his exertions in attending Marshall Foch's funeral, he died quietly on Easter Sunday, March 31, 1929. As a token of appreciation the French government sent the cruiser Tourville to take his remains back to his native land.
Ambassador Herrick was survived by his son, Parmely Webb Herrick. Mrs. Herrick had died in 1918. Pensacola Junior College, Pensacola, Florida
RUSSELL H. ANDERSON
Ohio History Center 800 E. 17th Ave. Columbus, OH 43211 © 1996-2012 All Rights Reserved.