George K. Nash

From Ohio History Central
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George K. Nash (1842-1904) was governor of Ohio from 1900 to 1904. Additionally, he was a Civil War veteran, served as Attorney General of Ohio from 1880 to 1883 and as a justice of the state Supreme Court from 1883 to 1885.

Ohio governor George Kilbon Nash was born in York Township, Medina County, Ohio, in 1842. He grew up on a farm, attending the Western Reserve Academy before enrolling at Oberlin College. Nash attended Oberlin for two years but did not graduate. In 1864, he enlisted as a private in the Union Army.

When the American Civil War ended, Nash moved to Columbus, Ohio, where he began to study the law. Nash gained admittance to the Ohio bar in 1867. It was only a short time before the young lawyer became involved in politics. Nash was a member of the Republican Party. He served as chief clerk in the office of Ohio's secretary of state beginning in 1869. In the 1870s, Nash twice won election as the Franklin County prosecuting attorney. His experience led him to become Ohio's attorney general during Governor Charles Foster's two terms as governor in the 1880s.

The Republican Party was divided into two factions in Ohio during the late nineteenth century. Joseph Foraker led one faction, while the other was associated with Marcus Hanna, John Sherman, and William McKinley. Nash was aligned with the second group. Because of that connection, Nash became the chairman of the Ohio Republican Party's executive committee in 1897. The Republicans chose Nash as their candidate for governor in 1899.

In the gubernatorial election of 1899, Nash ran against Democratic candidate John R. McLean and Independent Samuel M. Jones. Nash won the election and two years later was reelected to a second term. He was Ohio's forty-first governor. As governor, Nash instituted an auditing system for state agencies and enlarged the governor's ability to have input into the creation of laws. In 1903, a constitutional amendment was passed that gave the governor limited veto power. Nash and his supporters did not like the reform efforts used by Progressive reformers such as Mayor Tom L. Johnson of Cleveland and Samuel “Golden Rule” Jones of Toledo. As a result, his administration intervened in those cities and used the state legislature to reduce the power of Progressive community leaders. Ultimately, supporters of municipal home rule emerged to stop this practice.

Nash did not live long after completing his second term as governor. He died on October 28, 1904.

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