Warren Garst was born at Dayton, Ohio, December 4, 1850. He removed to Illinois with his parents in 1858 and in 1859 he established himself in business at Boone, Iowa, later going to Coon Rapids, Carroll county, where he and his brother opened a general merchandise store. To this business Mr. Garst has devoted himself for years. in addition to this he has been interested in farming and banking.
He served during the Twenty-fifth, Twenty-sixth, Twenty-sixth Extra. Twenty-seventh, Twenty-eighth, Twenty-ninth. Thirtieth and Thirty-first General Assemblies.
He assumed the office of Lieutenant governor on January 17. 1907, and became Governor on November 25, 1908, on the election of Governor Cummins to the United States Senate.
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Submitted by Cathy Danielson
Governor Warren Garst
Warren Garst was born in Dayton, Ohio, December 4, 1850. His ancestry, on his father's side, were Hollanders; on his mother's side they were Irish. When he was eight years old he came with his parents to Illinois, and at the age of nineteen he entered upon a business career in Boone, Iowa. Thence he and his brother went to Coon Rapids, Carroll County, Iowa, where they opened a general store which has ever since been the merchandising center of an extensive and rich agricultural region. In time, they engaged in local banking and in real estate.
In 1889, Warren Garst and Clara Clark were married in Boone. The union was blessed with three children, and was in all other respects an event assuring the contracting parties years of happy wedded life.
Having mastered the financial problem, and having become deeply interested in Iowa and national politics, in 1893, the Coon Rapids merchant, banker and farmer became a candidate for the state senate. His career in state politics began with the Twenty-fifth General Assembly and continued with uninterrupted success until the close of the Thirty-first. During his long career in office, Senator Garst was an influential member of the more important committees. During five legislatures he was chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations. There has never been a chairman of that important committee whose grasp of the finances of the state and the needs of the several departments of state activity was firmer than his whose insistence that the state's funds be placed where they would do the most good was firmer.
In the Republican Convention of 1906, Senator Garst was nominated on the Cummins ticket for lieutenant-governor. His vote exceeded that of the head of the ticket by over four thousand. He was inaugurated January 17, 1907, and proceeded at once to preside in person over the senate in which for fourteen years he had been a leading member.
The resignation of Governor Cummins in November, 1908, left a vacancy in the office of governor, which by constitutional direction elevated the lieutenant-governor to the vacant seat of authority. We now find Lieutenant Governor Garst occupying the chair of state for the remainder of Governor Cummins' term. With thorough knowledge of the business of the state and with extensive acquaintance with the public men of Iowa, the new governor entered upon his duties with an all-around equipment which few chief executives have had; and during the brief period of his administration he evinced the qualities which count for most in a chief executive, namely: shrewd intelligence, business method, directness of approach to public questions and continuity of purpose.
The message read by Governor Garst to the incoming Thirty-third General Assembly was an exhaustive review of conditions and of the needs of the state. It referred in congratulatory terms to the partial regeneration of political methods and the duty of the legislature to complete the work. It pointed with satisfaction to the eighteen state institutions under the board of control, and urged due attention to their steadily increasing needs. It urged a liberal policy toward schools and higher institutions of learning, also a careful revision of the school laws. It pointed the way to further restriction of the saloon evil. It urged generous treatment of the department of justice, the department of agriculture, the new department of insurance, and other avenues of the state's activities. It treated the railway question with fairness and yet with a view to the best interests of the state. It gave due attention to highways, urging the desirability of the state's expending to better advantage its four million or more annually in road building. In fact, there is not a single vital, interest of the state which was omitted in the message.
The retiring governor evinced deep interest in "the matter of providing a suitable setting for our magnificent state capitol." Iowa could "never pay its debt to Finkbine, Dey, Foote, Wright, Foreman and others of the Capitol Commission Partly in their honor and partly that we may complete what they so well begun," he felt a moral obligation rested upon the present generation that it "make the surroundings and approach to this great structure comport with its dignity and beauty." He recommended "a commission authorized to purchase land adjacent to the capitol grounds, with the right of condemnation where necessary, and with funds sufficient to secure such land as may be deemed necessary to provide a beautiful boulevard of approach and surroundings." He urged that the state should make the building and its grounds beautiful "to make the whole an object of pride to all our people, something that will be an inspiration to better citizenship and that will give Iowa higher standing in the family of states."
Friends were so insistent that his resultful fraction of a term deserved a full term, that Governor Garst finally decided to place his name before the republicans of the state as a candidate to succeed himself. Meantime State Auditor Carroll had entered the field as a candidate for the nomination for governor. The contest was spirited and the result in doubt until the last, when it was found that Carroll received 88,834 votes; Garst, 63,737; and John J. Hamilton, 29,292. The appearance of Hamilton as a candidate divided the opposition vote, giving Carroll a plurality of 25,097, or 4,195 less than a majority of the votes cast.
In July, 1913, ex-Governor Garst was appointed industrial commissioner of Iowa and entered on the great work of administering the new law for indemnifying workmen against the results of industrial accidents. He early insisted upon an assumption by the state of the insurance phase of the matter, on the ground that as the law enforces the provision for insurance the expense thereof is really a tax and is in its nature a governmental function which should be taken over by the state and not left to private corporations operating for profit—a proposition he has since steadily maintained against vigorous and thus far successful legislative opposition.
Iowa, Its History & Its Foremost Citizens, Volume 2, 1918
Submitted by Cathy Danielson
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