From Ohio History Central
Ohio Governor James Rhodes with California Governor Ronald Reagan at the Cincinnati Convention Center, Cincinnati, Ohio, October 1967.
James Allen Rhodes served as Ohio's governor for four terms during the late twentieth century.
Rhodes was born on September 13, 1909, in Coalton, Ohio. Rhodes's father was a coalminer who died in a mining accident in 1916. The Rhodes family then moved to Springfield, Ohio, where James took odd jobs to help support the family and also attended the Springfield Public Schools. He attended The Ohio State University but did not graduate because he had to leave school to financially aid his family.
In 1937, Rhodes embarked upon a career in politics and public service, winning election to the school board of Columbus, Ohio, as a Republican. His next public office was as the Columbus city auditor, and in 1943, he won election as mayor of Columbus, an office that he held from 1944 to 1952. In 1952, Rhodes successfully ran for Ohio's auditor's seat, a position that he held for the next decade. In 1954, Rhodes lost election as Ohio's governor.
In 1962, Rhodes won election as Ohio's governor. He eliminated or dramatically scaled back several programs that the previous governor, Michael DiSalle, had implemented. At the same time, Rhodes authorized the building of airports, state office buildings, prisons, and other public structures. Rhodes also lowered taxes on small business owners, hoping to enhance Ohio's economy, while he increased funding to schools and universities. He won reelection in 1966.
In 1970, Rhodes ordered the Ohio National Guard to Kent State University to quell protests against the Vietnam War. The guardsmen killed four people. Before the shootings, Rhodes referred to the protestors as being "worse than the brownshirts and the communist element and also the nightriders and the vigilantes. They're the worst type of people that we harbor in America. I think that we're up against the strongest, well-trained, militant, revolutionary group that has ever assembled in America." Two days after the Kent State shootings, Rhodes lost the Republican primary election to the United States Senate.
Due to an Ohio constitutional amendment that limited governors to no more than two consecutive terms, Rhodes had to leave office at the end of his second term. He, however, sought reelection in 1974 and again in 1978, winning both elections. During these two terms, Rhodes continued to oppose tax increases. Like he had done during his first time in office, Rhodes also sent Ohio officials to other states to recruit businesses to come to Ohio. These officials became known as "Rhodes' Raiders," as they raided other states for businesses. Rhodes experienced far fewer successes during his second eight years in office, as the Democratic Party now had a much more sizable presence in the Ohio legislature. Rhodes could not run for reelection in 1982, but he sought a fifth term as Ohio governor in 1986, losing the election to incumbent Richard F. Celeste. Rhodes then retired from politics.
Besides his active life in politics, Rhodes also served as president of the Amateur Athletic Union. During the late 1940s, Rhodes was involved with this organization, which oversaw several amateur sports. He also was an accomplished author, publishing several books.
Rhodes died on March 4, 2001.