Photograph of Judson Harmon, signed February 26, 1924. Harmon (1846-1927) served as Ohio governor from 1909 to 1913.
Ohio governor and United States Attorney General Judson Harmon was born in Newton, Ohio, on February 3, 1846. His father was a Baptist minister. Harmon attended Denison University and the Cincinnati Law School before setting up a practice in Cincinnati in 1869. The following year, Harmon married Olivia Scobey. Harmon's reputation as a lawyer led the people of Cincinnati to choose him as a judge for the common pleas and superior courts.
Harmon had first associated himself with the Republican Party, but the Republicans' stance on Reconstruction led him to switch to the Democratic Party. President Grover Cleveland asked Harmon to serve as the United States Attorney General in 1895, a post that he held until 1897. As attorney general, Harmon was instrumental in pursuing important anti-trust suits against railroads. After 1897, Harmon temporarily retired from politics, but he was never far from the public eye.
Harmon reemerged on the political scene when he successfully ran for Ohio governor in 1908. Two years later, Harmon was reelected over Republican candidate Warren G. Harding. Harmon had campaigned on the promise that he would clean up the state government and make it more efficient. While Harmon was governor, the state passed several reforms, including a workman's compensation act, and instituted many changes that improved efficiency and reduced corruption in state government offices. The state also ratified the Sixteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which created the federal income tax, and the Seventeenth Amendment, which established direct election of senators. Although some of these issues were favored by Progressives, Harmon did not support all Progressive programs. He was not comfortable with some of the social reforms that many Progressives advocated.
In 1912, Harmon had ambitions to gain the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. His opposition to Progressive reforms such as initiative and referendum made him an unviable candidate. Instead, the Democrats chose Woodrow Wilson as their candidate. After completing his second term as governor, Harmon returned to Cincinnati to practice law. In addition, he taught courses at the Cincinnati Law School. Harmon died in Cincinnati on February 22, 1927.
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