Thomas J. Herbert
Portrait of Ohio Governor Thomas J. Herbert, October 20, 1947. Herbert served one, two year term as Governor, from 1947-1949.
Thomas J. Herbert served as Ohio's governor from 1947 to 1949.
Herbert was born on October 28, 1894, in Cleveland, Ohio. He attended Cleveland's public schools, and upon graduating from high school, he enrolled in college at Adelbert College. He eventually transferred to Western Reserve University, where he graduated in 1915. He then enrolled in Western Reserve University Law School, but with the outbreak of World War I, Herbert left school prior to receiving his degree and enlisted in the United States military.
Herbert became a pilot, attained the rank of first lieutenant, and flew combat missions in France in support of infantry troops. On August 8, 1918, German forces shot his plane down, leaving Herbert severely wounded. After two years of physical rehabilitation, Herbert received an honorable discharge. For his heroism, he received the British Distinguished Flying Cross, the American Distinguished Service Cross, and the Purple Heart. He returned to Western Reserve University Law School, where he graduated in 1920 with his law degree. He actually passed the Ohio bar exam the year before.
In 1921, Herbert, a life-long member of the Republican Party, became Cleveland's assistant director of law. The following year, he became an assistant prosecuting attorney for Cuyahoga County, Ohio, a position that he held from 1922 to 1923. Herbert continued to pursue a political career, becoming one of Ohio's assistant attorneys general in 1929. In 1936, he sought election as Ohio's attorney general, but he lost the election by more than 280,000 votes. Two years later, Herbert won election as attorney general, where he served for three consecutive terms. Herbert became a well-respected attorney general, winning election or appointment to numerous boards, including the Board of Managers of the Council of State Governments, the House of Delegates of the American Bar Association, and as president of the National Association of Attorneys General.
In 1944, Herbert unsuccessfully sought the Republican Party's nomination to the Ohio governor's office. Two years later, he won the nomination and succeeded in the subsequent election, triumphing over Democratic-candidate Frank Lausche. Herbert was the only man to defeat Lausche in a governor's race. As Ohio's fifty-sixth governor, Herbert actively and successfully sought the reduction of taxes. He increased funding for public schools by approximately forty-nine million dollars and embarked on a massive road-building and paving campaign. He also earmarked nearly forty-five million dollars to assist returning World War II veterans and also called for the construction of medical facilities and the implementation of welfare-related programs across Ohio.
In 1948, Herbert sought re-election. Lausche easily defeated him in the election, despite Herbert's contributions to improving Ohio's infrastructure and reduction of taxes. Herbert remained active in public life, serving as a member and then chairperson of the Subversive Activities Control Board. President Dwight Eisenhower appointed Herbert to this position in 1953. The board was to investigate communism and communists in the United States during the heart of the Cold War. Herbert remained in this position until 1957, when he won election as a justice on the Ohio Supreme Court. He served as a justice for one term. Herbert died in Grove City, Ohio, on October 26, 1974.
- The Governors of Ohio. Columbus: The Ohio Historical Society, 1954
- Cayton, Andrew. Ohio: The History of a People. Columbus: The Ohio State University Press, 2002.