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Know Ohio: President Warren G. Harding

Gabriel shares all about Ohio's most recent president Warren G. Harding. He touches on Hardings early days as a newspaper owner, his call for normalcy, and the scandals that overshadowed his time in office. 

Class Discussion Questions:

1) What evidence is there that Warren G. Harding supported equal rights?

Read the Script:

[Gabriel] Come on Ohio. I'm waiting. You know Ohio has been home to the most Presidents right? So, surely a new one should be coming any time now. 

I mean Warren G. Harding, who served from 1921 to 1923, was the most recent and that was almost 100 years ago. Harding was born in Blooming Grove, Ohio in November of 1865. At the young age of 19, he purchased a newspaper, the Marion Daily Star, but competition was stiff and the Star struggled to make money. It wasn't until Harding brought his wife, Florence Kling DeWolfe, on board that things changed. Where Florence focused on the finances, Warren went to work writing, editing, and finding advertisements. 

Harding's political career began in 1898, when he was elected as a Republican to the Ohio Legislature, and then Lieutenant Governor in 1903. In 1914, he became a U.S. Senator, and like many in his party, Harding endorsed the 18th Amendment which called for prohibition. Prohibition is a ban on making, selling, and transporting alcohol. So, Harding didn't really think laws were the solution to the problem with alcohol. 

In 1920, after 10 rounds of voting, the Republican party selected Harding as their nominee. He went on to be elected the 29th president with more than 60% of the popular vote. This made Harding the first sitting Senator to win a Presidential Election. 

Harding promised to return the nation to normalcy after the hardships of World War I. While in office, he organized the Veteran's Bureau to help injured World War I soldiers receive treatment and job retraining. However, he vetoed a bill which would have provided vets with bonus pay, claiming the country did not have the money, a nod to his tight grip on spending. 

Harding was an advocate for equal civil rights for African Americans. During a segregated speech in Birmingham, Alabama, he said “whether you like it or not, our Democracy is a lie, unless you stand for that equality.” 

Historians agree that Harding's presidency was pretty weak. He invited lots of his friends to serve in powerful positions and that led to scandals and corruption. People even refer to them as the Ohio gang. 

Perhaps, the best known scandal was the Teapot Dome Scandal, when the Secretary of the Interior accepted bribes from others so they could use government oil preserves. 

Harding tried to boost the people's confidence in him through a speaking trip. He was the first U.S. President to visit Alaska and Canada in 1923, on his voyage of understanding. Harding took this trip across the country to hear firsthand from citizens about how they were doing and what his administration could do to help. 

While in Alaska, he set out to determine how to protect and responsibly use the state's natural resources. During the voyage of understanding, Harding unexpectedly died of a heart attack in San Francisco on August second 1923. 

Serving only two years, Harding joined fellow Ohio Presidents William Henry Harrison and James A Garfield in having one of the shortest terms.