From Ohio History Central
Harry Micajah Daugherty served as United States Attorney General during President Warren G. Harding's administration.
Daugherty was born on January 26, 1860. He graduated from the University of Michigan Law School when he was just twenty years old. He then embarked upon both a legal and political career in Washington Court House, Ohio. A member of the Republican Party, Daugherty served on the city council of Washington Court House and eventually became a prosecuting attorney in Fayette County, Ohio. From 1890 to 1894, Daugherty served in the Ohio General Assembly, where he represented Fayette County. He sought additional political offices, including the Ohio governor's seat and a seat in the United States House of Representatives, but Daugherty lost these elections. Despite these setbacks, by the late 1910s, Daugherty had emerged as one of the most powerful members of the Republican Party in Ohio. Because of Daugherty's prominence, in 1920, he served as campaign manager for Warren G. Harding, who was seeking to become President of the United States. Harding, an Ohioan, won the election and rewarded Daugherty with the position of attorney general.
As president, for the most part, Harding proved to be a poor manager of the federal government. He delegated authority to his cabinet officials. These men became known as the "Ohio Gang," because they supposedly were a gang of thieves from Ohio. In reality, most of the men linked to the Ohio Gang were not from Harding's home state.
Daugherty was a member of the Ohio Gang, and he, unlike most of the Ohio Gang members, actually was from Ohio. Unfortunately for Harding, Daugherty and his personal assistant, Jess Smith, appeared to engage in wrongdoing during Harding's presidency. While Daugherty served as attorney general, Smith held no formal position in the federal government. He simply served as an unofficial assistant to Daugherty. Smith lived with Daugherty at the Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, DC, and it was rumored, at the time, that the two men were engaged in a homosexual relationship. Smith was single, while Daugherty was married.
As rumors spread about corrupt officials in Harding's administration, eventually Attorney General Daugherty launched various investigations. Critics, especially in the United States Congress, claimed that Daugherty did not vigorously pursue the investigations. Eventually, it was suggested that Daugherty was also working with bootleggers. Bootlegging was a direct violation of the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This amendment established Prohibition in the United States. Smith also was supposedly involved in Daugherty's illegal activities. Rather than face legal charges and a possible prison sentence, Smith committed suicide. Daugherty eventually claimed that Smith's suicide resulted from poor health, including an appendicitis and diabetes, but most contemporaries linked Smith's death to his legal troubles. The United States Senate launched an investigation of Daugherty. The investigation failed to find any wrongdoing by Daugherty. Still, on March 28, 1924, while the Senate investigation was ongoing, Daugherty resigned as attorney general. Daugherty's supposed actions, along with those of several other of Harding's cabinet officials, caused a great deal of distrust of government officials among the American people and also solidified Harding's reputation as a poor president.
Upon resigning as attorney general, Daugherty returned to his law practice. He also devoted significant time to authoring a book that he hoped would exonerate him of all wrongdoing during Harding's presidency. In 1940, Daugherty suffered two heart attacks and had a bout with pneumonia. Basically bed-ridden for the rest of his life, Daugherty died on October 12, 1941.