Photograph of George White, governor of Ohio from 1931 to 1935.
George White was born on August 21, 1872, in Elmira, New York. His father was involved in the oil industry, and when White was two years old, his family moved to Titusville, Pennsylvania, where a great deal of oil drilling was currently taking place. White attended public schools in Titusville, and he eventually attended Princeton University, graduating from this institution in 1895. One of White's instructors at Princeton was Woodrow Wilson. Although White came from a Republican family, he adopted Wilson's political beliefs as own and became a member of the Democratic Party.
Upon graduating, White briefly taught school in Titusville. In 1898, he participated in the Klondike gold rush and amassed a small fortune. He invested his funds in the oil industry and owned wells in Ohio, West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Illinois.
By 1902, White had settled in Marietta, Ohio. He quickly embarked on a political career, winning election to the Ohio legislature as a Democrat. Once his term expired in 1908, White unsuccessfully sought election to the United States House of Representatives, losing by just fifty-seven votes. In 1910, he won election to the U.S. House, carrying his district by six thousand votes. He won reelection in 1912, lost in 1914, won in 1916, and lost again in 1918. During his tenure in Congress, White served on the Appropriations and the Ways and Means Committees. From 1920 to 1921, White served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
In 1930, White returned to politics, winning Ohio's governor's seat. He took office in 1931, and he won reelection in 1932. As governor, White had to deal with the Great Depression. He attempted to create numerous relief programs, but he faced opposition from the Republican-controlled legislature, as well as from some opponents within his own party. Upon taking office, White successfully reduced the state budget by twenty million dollars—a fifteen-percent reduction. He also created the Ohio Highway Patrol and implemented sales taxes on cosmetics, cigarettes, and other non-essential items to increase state revenues. In addition to these successes, the governor also implemented the State Relief Commission. In 1934, White sought reelection, but he lost the contest to Republican Martin L. Davey. White sought election to the United States Senate in 1936, 1942, and 1948, but he lost all three of these elections. He died on December 15, 1953.