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Harry M. Daugherty

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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, including Daugherty, became known as the "Ohio Gang," because they were supposedly a gang of thieves with Ohio roots. In reality, most of the men linked to the Ohio Gang were not from Harding's home state, Daugherty being an exception.

Unfortunately for Harding, Daugherty and his personal assistant, Jess Smith, appeared to engage in wrongdoing during Harding’s presidency, in particular bootlegging, which was a direct violation of the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. It was also rumored that Smith and Daugherty were having an affair which only added to the sense of corruption surrounding Harding’s presidency.

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. Smith also was supposedly involved in Daugherty's illegal activities. Rather than face legal charges and a possible prison sentence, Smith took his own life. 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. Daugherty was bed-ridden for the rest of his life, and died on October 12, 1941.


  1. Anthony, Carl Sferrazza.

<city> <place>Florence</place></city> Harding: The First Lady, the Jazz Age and the Death of <country-region> <place>America</place></country-region>'s Most Scandalous President. <place> <city>New York</city>, <state>NY</state></place>: W. Morrow & Co., 1998.  

  1. Murray, Robert K. The Harding Era: Warren G. Harding and His Administration. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1969.  
  2. Daugherty, Henry Micajah. The Inside Story of the Harding Tragedy. New York, NY: The Churchill Company, 1932. 
  3. Mee, Charles L., Jr. The Ohio Gang: The World of Warren G. Harding. New York, NY: M. Evans, 1981.
  4. Murray, Robert K. The Politics of Normalcy: Governmental Theory and Practice in the Harding-Coolidge Era. New York, NY: Norton, 1973. 
  5. Trani, Eugene P, and David L. Wilson. The Presidency of Warren G. Harding. Lawrence: Regents Press of Kansas, 1977.