From Ohio History Central
Ohio governor Andrew L. Harris was born in Butler County, Ohio, on November 17, 1835, to former teacher and farmer Benjamin Harris and Nancy Lintner Harris. In 1838, the Harrises moved to Preble County. Harris attended public schools before enrolling at Miami University in 1857. He graduated in 1860 and began to read the law in the office of Thompson and Harris in Eaton, Ohio.
When the American Civil War began in April 1861, Harris immediately enlisted as a private. He served until he was mustered out on January 15, 1865. During those years, Harris participated in eighteen battles. He was wounded on two occasions, leaving his right arm permanently disabled. By the time that he left the service, Harris had risen to the rank of colonel, although his dedicated service was recognized in 1866 when he was brevetted brigadier general.
Harris returned to his study of the law after he left the military. He was admitted to the Ohio bar in April 1865 and opened his practice in Eaton. In October 1865, Harris married Caroline Conger, the daughter of a local farmer. Harris formed a law partnership with Robert Miller in Eaton that lasted from 1866 until 1876.
Harris first entered politics in 1866, when he was elected to represent Preble and Montgomery counties in Ohio's general assembly. Harris was affiliated with the Republican Party. In 1875, he was elected to the first of two terms as probate judge of Preble County. After serving the second term, Harris decided to retire from politics and returned to his farm.
Although Harris had intended to retire from politics, that retirement was short-lived. In 1885, Harris was elected to a term in the state house of representatives, winning reelection in 1887. He became a well-respected figure within Ohio's Republican Party. This respect was reflected by his election as lieutenant governor in 1891 and again in 1893, when William McKinley was governor. After McKinley became president, he appointed Harris to the federal commission on trusts, a position that he held from 1898 to 1902.
Once again Harris attempted to retire from public life in 1902, returning to his farm in Preble County. In 1905, the Republican Party asked Harris to run for lieutenant governor. Although Democrat John M. Pattison was elected governor, Harris was elected lieutenant governor. Governor Pattison died while in office on June 18, 1906, and Harris then became Ohio's forty-fourth governor.
During Harris's administration, a number of Progressive reforms were enacted. Ohio passed its first pure food and drug law, created a bureau of vital statistics, and banned corporations from using money to influence politics. Harris had supported passage of legislation that encouraged the spread of Prohibition across the state, thus earning him a number of enemies. Pattison's term was scheduled to last for three years because of changes in the electoral laws, which meant that the next elections were not held until 1909. Harris ran unsuccessfully for reelection in 1909, in large part because of opposition from those who were against Prohibition.
Harris once again returned to his farm in Preble County after the election in 1909. He remained there until his death from heart problems on September 13, 1915.
- Cayton, Andrew. Ohio: The History of a People. Columbus: The Ohio State University Press, 2002.
- The Governors of Ohio. Columbus: The Ohio Historical Society, 1954
- Hofstadter, Richard. The Age of Reform: From Bryan to F.D.R. New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1960.
- Hofstadter, Richard. The Progressive Movement, 1900-1915. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1963.
- McGerr, Michael. A Fierce Discontent: The Rise and Fall of the Progressive Movement in America, 1870-1920. New York, NY: Free Press, 2003.