William Lloyd Harding

William Lloyd Harding, Iowa's twenty-second governor, was born in Sibley, Iowa on October 3, 1877.

From 1897 to 1901, he attended Morningside College, and then went on to earn his law degree from the University of South Dakota. Harding entered politics in 1906, serving as a member of the Iowa House of Representatives, a position he held for six years. He also served as Iowa's lieutenant governor from 1913 to 1917. Harding won the 1916 Republican gubernatorial nomination and was sworn into the governor's office on January 11, 1917. He was reelected to a second term in 1918. During his tenure, World War I issues were addressed.

As governor, Harding issued a state directive that only English be spoken in the state. Also, rural schools were consolidated; a state survey was authorized to establish locations of scenic and historic interests; a state park system was planned; and scandals surfaced relating to pardons and appointments. Several resignations resulted, and an impeachment proposal was initiated but denied, however, a censure motion was approved. Harding's administration was tainted, and he left office on January 13, 1921. He later served as president of the Great Lakes-Saint Lawrence Waterway Association.

Governor William L. Harding died on December 17, 1934, and was entombed in a mausoleum at the Graceland Park Cemetery in Sioux City, Iowa.

[National Governors Association, submitted by cd]

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On the 11th day of January, 1917, Governor William L. Harding took the oath of office, administered by Chief Justice F. R. Gaynor, in the presence of the Thirty-seventh General Assembly and several thousand representative citizens. The governor then proceeded to deliver his inaugural address. The unusual campaign, mainly one of personalities, into which the question of good roads and that of the submission of the prohibitory amendment were prominent—with little regard for facts or fairness—and the unprecedentedly large majority given the republican nominee, excited much speculation as to the position the new governor would take on those questions. For these reasons the address was awaited with keenest interest.

At the outset the governor assured the legislators that he would not lose sight of the fact that they constituted "a coordinate branch of the government, wisely protected, in the performance of its functions, from undue influence and interference by its peers." He would not presume to outline a complete legislative program, but would content himself with giving his conception of policies which would redound to the benefit of the whole people.

Commenting on Iowa's many natural advantages, he saw much that legislation might accomplish. "We have made legislative effort to afford man a safe place in which to work. Might we not well look to see if we may, by the same means, afford him and his family a decent place in which to live?" He saw no reason why we should not legislate against undue profits from rent, as we do against undue profits from loans of money. The good-housing question involved the future of the home "the, rock upon which the whole structure of society rests." The related matter of the public health appealed to the governor. He urged legislators to be "selfishly generous" especially in appropriating funds to carry on the work of eradicating tuberculosis.

As to the proposed amendment to the Constitution prohibiting the manufacture and sale of intoxicants, Governor Harding fully redeemed his campaign pledge. He recommended that the general assembly proceed at once to insure the submission of the amendment to a vote of the people. He went further. He urged the gravity of the matter, involving the fundamental law of the state and the duty of surrounding the passage of the amendment and its submission to the people "with every safeguard and precaution necessary to avoid any technical defect or irregularity, and to secure a free and fair expression of the will of the people."

"Preparedness" was the subject next considered. The governor maintained that "every male citizen should be made to understand that he has a duty to his country, and should be trained to perform that duty well. The burden of defense should not rest wholly on the shoulders of those who shall volunteer. . . . Might it not be possible to make our present common-school system the agency by which this may be accomplished, in connection with the National Guard.

The proposed abandonment of the primary met with no favor with the new governor. He regarded the primary principle as fundamental. "By it the unit for the expression of public opinion has been reduced from the mass-meeting to the individual. . . . His right to be heard, and to be counted has been transferred from the will of the presiding officer to the quiet protection of the ballot box." He maintained that the arguments for repeal are based on distrust of the populace which the Tory of all ages has felt. The people make mistakes but they learn to use power rightly by being given it to use. The use of the primary will better it. He saw no economy in any saving of money which involved a curtailment of the liberty and power of the individual citizen.

Good roads next claimed the governor's attention. The issue on which the people had emphatically spoken in the negative was stated as simply this: "Whether the state .... should enter into any long-time indebtedness, under any guise, for extensive work in experimental road-building." To the extent of his power, the governor intended to enforce this program, and he hoped for legislative cooperation. Its details were essentially a legislative function, to be performed "without interference by the executive," unless the adjustment should violate these principles to which he was committed. He was content to leave the problem to the general assembly and not to "the dictum of theorists and irresponsible publicists whose inspiration is less a secret than a scandal."

On the question of complying with the conditions under which "Federal Aid" could be obtained, it was the governor's opinion that it was "a form of lottery for the extraction of money from the pockets of the people, under conditions only temporarily painless, a sedative, administered to the taxpayer, under the influence of which he pays for the prize out of his own pocket.'' He left with the legislators the choice between two evils—a course which, ''while securing to ourselves some crumbs of comfort from the feast we have been forced to spread," would withhold encouragement from "this wasteful form of appropriation and expenditure."

On enforcement of law the governor took high ground. "The term 'law enforcement,' " he said, "cannot be qualified .... An executive officer has no proper concern with possible reaction occasioned by honest and uniform enforcement of law. ... So far as it lies in the power of this administration, no officer shall usurp the power of repeal by inaction, or resolve any doubts against the wisdom or virtue of any law which shall remain upon the statute books when you shall have adjourned. . . . Real law enforcement will be worth whatever it shall cost. . . . Let no false economies stand between you and the accomplishment of this prime purpose of government."

Having satisfied reasonable expectation on this vital question, the governor proceeded to urge fewer laws and better, reduction in expenditures and in the number of state employees, an investigation of the question of the state's printing, reform in methods of taxation, etc.

The address concluded with a return to the subject of legislation, declaring that "the measure of service is not the number of bills passed, but the care with which those that pass shall be drawn. . . . The people expect this legislature to do a few big things, and then adjourn." He deemed seventy days ample time in which to do all the people expected of this general assembly.

Instead of the "seventy days" named by the governor, the Thirty-seventh General Assembly remained in session from January 8 to April 14, or ninety-seven days.

It accomplished not only ''a few big things,'' but also many relatively small things essential to the state's welfare. It also did at least all that could reasonably be expected of it, in the killing of bills!


Though the Thirty-seventh General Assembly at the outset evinced symptoms of a reactionary tendency, its general trend was progressive. It heeded Governor Harding's injunction and refrained from excessive legislation, mainly contenting itself with amending and repealing laws. Its record in this respect is that, altogether, it amended and repealed 364 sections of previously existing laws. Of the 1,224 bills and 24 joint resolutions introduced in both houses, only 434 bills and resolutions passed. The sum total of acts receiving the governor's signature was 420. Twelve of the twenty-four resolutions were also approved. Nearly two-thirds of the laws enacted were passed during the last week of the session, with an evident lack of that deliberation presumably essential to good work in a deliberative body. In fact, the wonder is that so much good work was done. The mystery of it is explained by the fact that legislative bodies are, of necessity, becoming more and more an aggregation of committees, and less and less the forum in which questions are exhaustively debated, and the last days of a legislative session are little more than the round-up of the committee work of the session.

Let us review the civil legislation of the session which stands out distinct from the mere amendatory and legalizing acts that occupy much space in the printed Session Laws.

A reversal of two important details of the plans approved by the previous general assembly was enacted after much heated discussion, "permanently" fixing the location of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument where it was originally placed, and directing the executive council to remove the Allison Monument from proximity thereto. This action seriously modified the Masqueray plans, and involved so many complications that down to the year 1918 nothing had been done to carry it into effect, the administration evidently relying on the Thirty-eighth General Assembly for further direction.

The presidential preference primary law was declared to have been a farce and a failure, and was repealed.

Much ill-feeling was engendered and many personalities were indulged in over the question of the repeal of the non-partisan judiciary law, and the restoration of the party circle to the Australian ballot. An amended bill covering both these measures passed the Senate by a majority of five and the House by a majority of forty-seven. The measure was, however, vetoed by the governor, mainly on constitutional grounds, the governor maintaining that "judges cannot well wear the party label and the ermine at the same time." No attempt was made to pass it over the veto.

The schools of the state were not neglected. Provision was made to accept the requirements and benefits of an act of congress appropriating money to the states for instruction in agriculture, the trades and industries, and for instruction in vocational training. A State Board of Vocational Education was created consisting of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, the President of the State Board of Education and the Commissioner of Labor Statistics.

The law prohibiting secret fraternities in the public schools was made more stringent by striking out the word "secret."

The power of school corporations to condemn land for schoolhouse grounds was increased, authorizing the condemnation of two acres instead of one and, in a city or town, two blocks instead of one, and in the case of consolidated schools ten acres instead of four.

Over a determined opposition, a State Banking Department was created, relieving the Auditor of State of responsibility as to banks.

After a strenuous debate, a law was passed authorizing cities having a population of over 50,000 to establish a community-center district, with house and grounds for recreational and instructional purposes, the city to submit to its voters the question of issuing bonds for such purpose. This was a personal triumph for Weaver, of Polk, who had made the subject a special study. The exigencies of war have deferred for a time any local action in the direction indicated by the statute.

Important and too long deferred measures were passed providing for statewide registration of vital statistics,—the reporting of all births and deaths to the county clerk and the keeping of a record of all marriages and divorces in the office of the county clerk; also the authorization of a community civic congress, to be named by the city council, who may cooperate with the council on all matters pertaining to community improvements, child welfare, and social and recreational activities.

One of the least heralded but most serviceable measures passed was the law, long and strenuously urged by the Mothers' Clubs of the state, establishing the Iowa Child Welfare Research Station as a function of the State University. This, with kindred legislation—including a state hospital for diseased and crippled children, was pioneer legislation, for the Research Station since established at Iowa City is the first of its kind in America. Its mission is the scientific study and investigation of so-called abnormal children, to the end that it may be made possible to correct serious defects in sight, hearing, speech, and as far as possible, to remove the causes and effects of malnutrition, defective teeth, adenoids, enlarged tonsils, epilepsy, pauperism, drunkenness, criminality, etc. This provision for the future of the children of Iowa is but one more step of progress in line with the deliberate judgment of the people of Iowa that the future of the commonwealth will depend, primarily, upon the physical, mental and moral health of the children of the present generation. The station collaborates with the College of Medicine, the College of Dentistry, the Department of Home Economics, the College of Education, the Department of Psychology, and the University Extension Division. A consulting psychologist is accessible to parents, teachers, physicians, school officials and social workers for advice and help.

After two previous attempts to secure a satisfactory bulk-sales law, this body repealed and re-wrote the old law, the substitute affording jobbers and manufacturers what appeared to be reasonable protection against fraudulent debtors.

Approval was given to the joint resolution of the preceding legislature providing for a prohibitory amendment to the state Constitution, and for the submission of same to a popular vote to be taken October 15, 1917.

A bill was passed prohibiting the solicitation of orders for the sale of intoxicants by advertising of any kind.

The place of delivery of intoxicating liquors was, by law, construed to be a place of sale, thereby preventing, or aiming to prevent, the transportation of liquor by common carriers.

On the information of any credible citizen, or any special agent of the state, search warrants for liquor were authorized.

Manufacturers of patent medicines, tinctures, extracts and the like, not susceptible of use as a beverage, were privileged under severe restrictions, to obtain permits to purchase and use alcohol and liquors for manufacturing purposes.

The professional use of liquors was extended to registered dentists or veterinarians, under severe restrictions.

Laws were also enacted making "bootlegging" extra-hazardous.

The enforcement power of the executive department was materially strengthened by a law centralizing authority in the hands of the governor and attorney general. Either of these officials might call to his aid any peace officer in the state in procuring evidence, ferreting out criminals, prosecuting violators of the law, etc. The law carried an annual appropriation of $25,000 for the employment of detectives or other persons to aid in enforcement.

This measure and that prohibiting the shipping of liquor into the state were afterward used with telling effect by the opposition in the amendment-campaign which followed.

A joint resolution was passed by an overwhelming vote, proposing anew an amendment to the Constitution extending to every citizen of the age of twenty-one the right to vote. This action, deliberately taken notwithstanding the defeat of the suffrage amendment at the polls in 1916, passed the Senate by a vote of 35 to 13, and the House by 86 to 20. Thus was "the irrepressible conflict" between "sex-monopoly" and "universal suffrage" renewed in Iowa, and with no apparent diminution in legislative strength.

After a strenuous contest the offices of State Printer and State Binder were abolished, following several previous attempts to make a change. It was decreed that after the expiration of the terms of the incumbents, the state printing and binding should be let to the lowest responsible bidder. .

A "county agent law" was enacted, providing that any county farm improvement association with 200 members and $500 in its treasury may receive from the county board of supervisors the sum of $2,500, with which a county agent may be employed. The new law did away with the referendum vote. Its benefits are confined to organizations that cooperate with the State College and with the United States Department of Agriculture.

The Iowa Beef and Cattle Producers' Association, the Iowa State Dairy Association and the Iowa Corn and Small Grain Growers' Association were recognized by a law providing instruction in practical and scientific methods, and giving state aid toward an annual exhibition of corn and small grains.

The legislature conservatively refused to authorize verdicts by nine of twelve jurors. Several minor modifications were made in the jury laws.

Workmen's Compensation laws were strengthened by several acts clearly in the interests of the workingman. One of these makes a claim against a railway, street railway or interurban railway company a lien upon the company's property.

The legislature withheld support from a bill making eight hours a day's work on public works.

A so-called Anti-Injunction bill, recognizing trade unions and regulating injunctions against them, failed to reach the House.

The office of Industrial Commissioner was created, and provision was made for an arbitration committee, defining its duties and powers.

The long contest over "Good Roads," inherited from the Thirty-sixth General Assembly, consumed much time and energy in the House. The subject had figured prominently in the fall campaign and the result of the district elections, though somewhat obscured by other issues, apparently pointed at least to a modification of the law in force. The oldest onlooker would scarcely recall any mooted legislation which had called forth so much personal ill-feeling, so many cutting insinuations, so much invective. And yet, when the end came, and each party to the contest saw that the other had not administered the "smashing defeat" threatened, both parties came together with at least an outward acceptance of the results, and the session closed with an apparent "era of good feeling."

The crux of the debate was over the abolition of the State Highway Commission; but the session closed with the retention of the commission, though its powers were measurably limited. The closeness of the contest is seen in the final vote—54 to 54!

Provision was made for an acceptance of the conditions of the federal road act for the maintenance and improvement of rural post roads. Under this act it was estimated that the State of Iowa would receive, during the next five years, nearly $2,200,000, on condition that it appropriate an equal amount, and guarantee satisfactory maintenance of the roads receiving federal aid. Provision was made for the application of so much of the automobile license fund as should be necessary to meet these requirements, the money to be equitably apportioned among the counties of the state.

A road-patrol act provided that boards of supervisors appoint county road patrolmen who should give their entire time during the road-working season, seeing that the roads are dragged after every rain and are at all times kept clear of debris impeding the entrance to sluices and culverts, and that bridges be kept free from obstruction, etc.

Other road legislation was enacted, altogether distinguishing the session as one marking the beginning of an era of good roads for Iowa.

The session was also marked by several acts of importance bearing upon the advent of Iowa and the nation into the World War. This legislation will be considered in Chapter XII of this Part.


The Thirty-seventh General Assembly included a large number of native-born citizens. Of the fifty senators thirty-three were born in Iowa; and of the one hundred and eight representatives, sixty were born in Iowa. It also included a large number of farmers. In the Senate there were eleven; in the House there were fifty-four. The president pro tem of the Senate, Arney, of Marshall, was classed as a farmer and banker, and the speaker of the House, Pitt, of Harrison, was classed as a farmer. Of the senators, twenty-eight were* reported as college-educated, and of the one hundred and eight representatives, fifty-two were so reported.

With thirty-four senators and fifty-four representatives credited with previous legislative experience, both bodies speedily organized and promptly settled down to business. The principal committees were led by veteran legislators. In the Senate, Kimball was chairman of ways and means; Chase, judiciary; Foskett, appropriations; Whitmore, suppression of intemperance; Foster, banks; Balkema, highways; Newberry, public schools; Parker, cities and towns; Wilson, of Appanoose, constitutional amendments.

In the House, Hall, of Bedford was chairman of ways and means; McFerren, of Hamilton, judiciary; Johnston, of Humboldt, appropriations; Stanley, of Adams, suppression of intemperance; Rayburn, of Poweshiek, banks; Rowley, of Van Buren, schools; Klinker, of Crawford, constitutional amendments.

The influential joint committee on retrenchment and reform was manned by Senators Kimball, Chase, Foskett, Schrup and Voorhees, and Representatives Hall, McFerren, Johnston, of Humboldt, Rogers, and Bailey.

Senator Frailey, of Lee, rounded out his senatorial term displaying ability as a leader in debate. Senator Rule, of Cerro Gordo, was accorded unusual prominence for a new member. Senator Proudfoot, of Warren, had sat in the Thirty-third and Thirty-fourth General Assemblies and his experience was an asset.

In the House the make-up of the speaker's committees was along the customary partisan lines, but the partisanship was somewhat more marked than usual. Conspicuous among the veterans in the House who were not accorded the places on committees to which their previous service and ability would seem to have entitled them were Anderson, of Greene, and Crozier, of Marion. Among the influential members without conspicuous rank on committees were Weaver, of Polk, Randall, of Linn, and Elwood, of Howard. Though one of the youngest members, Elwood was a veteran of two previous legislatures, and was accorded leadership of the opposition to the proposed road legislation which was to have included the .abolition of the State Highway Commission.


William Lloyd Harding is the second native-born Iowan to administer upon Iowa affairs as executive head of the state. He was born on his father's farm in Osceola County on the third day of October, 1877. His parents migrated from Pennsylvania to Iowa in 1872.

Like most other Iowa governors, he was early trained to practical agriculture and in the essential foundations of a practical education in the common school. On arriving at maturity, he broadened his experience by teaching and by a variety of business activities. After a thorough self-inspection, the young school-teacher decided to enter the legal profession, for which his mental attitude and his varied experiences well fitted him.

In 1905, he was graduated from the Law School of the University of South Dakota. He chose the growing and prosperous metropolis of northwestern Iowa as his field. He had practiced law in Sioux City scarcely more than a year before his fitness and availability for legislative honors began to be discussed.

In 1906 he was elected representative in the Thirty-second General Assembly. Soon mastering the intricacies of legislation, and evincing unusual ability in debate, he was early pointed out as one of the leaders of the House.

On the 9th of January, 1907, he surprised his bachelor-friends by deserting their ranks, having that day married Miss Carrie May Lamoreux, of Sioux City. One child, a daughter, has blessed their union. He was returned to the House in 1908, and again in 1910. In the Thirty-third General Assembly, he was accorded the chairmanship of the important committee on municipal corporations, and was given place on judiciary, insurance, labor and other committees.

In the Thirty-fourth he was chairman of state educational institutions, and a member of judiciary, elections, municipal corporations and labor.

In 1912, Representative Harding was nominated and elected lieutenant governor of Iowa, and two years later he was given a second term. His personal popularity and his readiness and fairness as a presiding officer overcame the tradition that the lieutenant governorship is a graveyard to ambition. In the election of 1916, he was chosen governor of Iowa by the unprecedentedly large plurality of 126,754 votes over Edwin T. Meredith, the democratic candidate.

The campaign for the republican nomination in 1916 was one of unusual intensity, and was marked by a partial obliteration of party lines. There were four candidates. The result of the primary was: Harding, 107,744; George Cosson, ex-attorney-general, 54,983; Joseph H. Allen, ex-senator, 48,046; Carl F. Koehnle, 17,090. Meredith had no opposition among the democrats.

In the primary, Harding's record on the prohibition question was severely criticized, and the sincerity of his pledge to support the submission of the constitutional amendment to the voters of the state was questioned by many in his own party. But, the fact that he had overcome the opposition by a plurality of 52,761, he having received nearly as many votes as his three competitors together, made a strong appeal to republicans for the support of his party at the polls. In the fall campaign he was confronted with the opposition of several influential church conferences, and their resolutions of support for the opposing candidate were given wide publicity in leading dailies of the state, accompanied by editorial endorsement. To offset this formidable opposition, the Iowa Homestead, through its columns and by broadsides sent by mail to all the voters of the state, attacked Mr. Meredith's personal habits as an entertainer of guests in his home and his business integrity in connection with certain corporate dealings.

Even at this slight remove from the campaign of 1916, it must be clear to all unprejudiced students of politics that the more virulent attacks on both candidates were in the main unjust and, so far as relates to the course of the elected candidate, were without substantial foundation. A perusal of Governor Harding's inaugural address shows that the governor not only redeemed his pledge of support to the submission of the prohibitory amendment but also evinced solicitude that the amendment should not fail, as in the eighties, by reason of technical defects in the submission.

The entrance of the United States in the World War, early in 1917, followed by the prompt and emphatic commitment of Iowa to the support of the Wilson administration, diverted the public mind from state issues and stimulated popular interest in national affairs. Into this new emergency, Governor Harding threw the full weight of his ability and enthusiasm. He became the principal mouth-piece and inspiration of a state-wide movement to materialize the patriotic spirit of Iowa in ways that should "help win the war." The details of the governor's prominent part in this work are given in another chapter.

As the year 1917 drew to a close, there were no signs of active opposition to the traditional second term for Governor Harding, and the strong probability was that he and Mrs. Harding, first occupants of Iowa's "White House," would be accorded the further honor of presiding over the state's newly acquired executive mansion during the years 1919-20.

Iowa, Its History & Its Citizens, Volume 2, 1918
Submitted by Cathy Danielson