Warren G. Harding Biography

Warren G. Harding was the twenty-ninth President of the United States. 1921-1923. Born: Near Marion, Ohio in 1865. He married Florence Kling De Wolfe. Served in the state Senate. Harding won the Presidential election by a landslide of 60 percent. Died in San Francisco of a heart attack in 1923.

Warren G. Harding Biography:
Warren Gamaliel Harding (November 2, 1865 - August 2, 1923) was the twenty-ninth President of the United States, serving from 1921 until his death from a heart attack, aged 57, in 1923. A Republican from Ohio, Harding was an influential newspaper publisher. He served in the Ohio Senate (1899-1903) and later as Lieutenant Governor of Ohio (1903-1905) and as a U.S. Senator (1915-1921). His political leanings were conservative, which enabled him to become the compromise choice at the 1920 Republican National Convention. During his presidential campaign, held in the aftermath of World War I, he promised a return to "normalcy"; and, in the 1920 election, he defeated his Democratic opponent, fellow Ohioan James M. Cox, in the largest presidential popular vote landslide in American history since the popular vote tally began to be recorded in 1824: 60.36% to 34.19%. Harding headed a cabinet of notable men such as Charles Evans Hughes, Andrew Mellon, Herbert Hoover and Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall, who was jailed for his involvement in the Teapot Dome scandal. In foreign affairs, Harding signed peace treaties that built on the Treaty of Versailles (which formally ended World War I). He also led the way to world Naval disarmament at the Washington Naval Conference of 1921-22. Harding has been consistently ranked by scholars as one of the worst U.S. Presidents.

Warren G. Harding was born November 2, 1865, near Marion, Ohio (in a town now called Blooming Grove, Ohio). Harding was the eldest of eight children born to Dr. George Tryon Harding, Sr. and Phoebe Elizabeth (Dickerson) Harding. His mother was a midwife and later obtained her medical license, and his father taught at a rural school north of Mount Gilead, Ohio. When Harding was a teenager, the family moved to Caledonia, Ohio in neighboring Marion County, when Harding's father acquired The Argus, a local weekly newspaper there. It was at The Argus that Harding learned the basics of the journalism business. He continued studying the printing and newspaper trade as a college student at Ohio Central College in Iberia, Ohio, during which time he also worked at the Union Register in Mount Gilead. After graduating, Harding moved to Marion, Ohio, where he and two friends raised $300 with which to purchase the failing Marion Daily Star, the weakest of the growing city's three newspapers. Harding revamped the paper's editorial platform to support the Republican Party, and enjoyed a moderate degree of success. However, his political stance put him at odds with those who controlled Marion's local politics. Thus when Harding moved to unseat the Marion Independent as the official paper of daily record, he met with vocal resistance from local figures, such as Amos Hall Kling, one of Marion's wealthiest real estate speculators.

Wile Harding won the war of words and made the Marion Daily Star one of the most popular newspapers in the county, the battle took a toll on his health. In 1889, when Harding was 24, he suffered from exhaustion and nervous fatigue. He spent several weeks at the Battle Creek Sanitarium to regain his strength, ultimately making five visits over fourteen years. Harding later returned to Marion to continue operating the paper. He spent his days boosting the community on the editorial pages, and his evenings "bloviating" (Harding's term for "informally conversing") with his friends over games of poker. On July 8, 1891, Harding married Florence Kling, the daughter of his nemesis, Amos Hall Kling. Florence Kling was a divorcée, five years Harding's senior, and the mother of a young son, Marshall Eugene DeWolfe. She had pursued Harding persistently, until he reluctantly proposed. Florence's father was furious with his daughter's decision to marry Harding, forbidding his wife from attending the wedding and not speaking to his daughter or son-in-law for eight years. The couple complemented one another, with Harding's affable personality balancing his wife's no-nonsense approach to life. Florence Harding, exhibiting her father's determination and business sense, turned the Marion Daily Star into a profitable business. She has been credited with helping Harding achieve more than he might have alone; some have speculated that she later pushed him all the way to the White House. Harding was a Freemason, raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason on August 27, 1920, in Marion Lodge #70, F.& A.M., in Marion, Ohio.

As an influential newspaper publisher with a flair for public speaking, Harding was elected to the Ohio State Senate in 1899. He served four years before being elected Lieutenant Governor of Ohio, a post he occupied from 1903 to 1905. He received the Republican nomination for Governor of Ohio in 1910, but lost to incumbent Judson Harmon.

In 1912, Harding gave the nominating speech for incumbent President William Howard Taft at the Republican National Convention and in 1914 he was elected to the United States Senate, becoming Ohio's first senator elected by popular vote. He served in the Senate from 1915 until his inauguration as President on March 4, 1921, becoming the first sitting Senator to be elected President of the United States.

Relatively unknown outside his own state, Harding was a true "dark horse" candidate, winning the Republican Party nomination due to the political machinations of his friends after the nominating convention had become deadlocked. Republican leaders met in room at the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago to end the deadlock. Before receiving the nomination, he was asked whether there were any embarrassing episodes in his past that might be used against him. His formal education was limited, he had a longstanding affair with the wife of an old friend, and he was a social drinker in the time of Prohibition. However, Harding answered "No" and the Party moved to nominate him, only to discover later his relationship with Carrie Fulton Phillips. In the 1920 election, Harding ran against Democratic Ohio Governor James M. Cox, whose running-mate was Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt. The election was seen in part as a referendum on whether to continue with the "progressive" work of the Woodrow Wilson Administration or to revert to the "laissez-faire" approach of the William McKinley era. Harding ran on a promise to "Return to Normalcy", a seldom-used term he popularized. Harding's "front porch campaign" during the late summer and fall of 1920 captured the imagination of the country. Not only was it the first campaign to be heavily covered by the press and to receive widespread newsreel coverage, but it was also the first modern campaign to use the power of Hollywood and Broadway stars, who traveled to Marion for photo opportunities with Harding and his wife. Al Jolson, Lillian Russell, Douglas Fairbanks, and Mary Pickford were among the conservative-minded luminaries to make the pilgrimage to central Ohio. Business icons Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Harvey Firestone also lent their cachet to the campaign. From the onset of the campaign until the November election, over 600,000 people traveled to Marion to participate. The campaign owed a great deal to Florence Harding, who played perhaps a more active role than any previous candidate's wife in a presidential race. She cultivated the relationship between the campaign and the press. As the business manager of the Star, she understood reporters and their industry and played to their needs by making herself freely available to answer questions, pose for pictures, or deliver food prepared in her kitchen to the press office, which was a bungalow she had constructed at the rear of their property in Marion. Mrs. Harding even went so far as to coach her husband on the proper way to wave to newsreel cameras to make the most of coverage. The campaign also drew upon Harding's popularity with women. Considered handsome, Harding photographed well compared to Cox. However, it was Harding's support for women's suffrage in the Senate that made him popular with women: the ratification of the 19th Amendment in August 1920 brought huge crowds of women to Marion, Ohio to hear Harding. The election of 1920 was the first in which women could vote nationwide. It was also the first presidential election to be covered on the radio, thanks to the nation's first commercial radio station, KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Harding received 60% of the national vote and 404 electoral votes, an unprecedented margin of victory. Cox received 34% of the national vote and 127 electoral votes. Socialist Eugene V. Debs, campaigning from a federal prison, received 3% of the national vote.

The administration of Warren G. Harding followed the Republican platform approved at the 1920 Republican National Convention, which was held in Chicago. Harding calmed the 1919-1920 spy scare and released his election opponent, Socialist leader Eugene Debs, from prison; Debs had been put there by the Wilson administration for his opposition to Wilson's draft. Despite the many political differences between the two candidates, Harding pardoned Debs. Harding pushed for the establishment of the Bureau of Veterans Affairs (later organized as the Department of Veterans Affairs), the first permanent attempt at answering the needs of those who had served the nation in time of war. He created the Bureau of the Budget, becoming the first president to take a role in federal expenditures.

In April 1921, speaking before a joint session of Congress, he called for peacemaking with Germany and Austria, emergency tariffs, new immigration laws, regulation of radio and trans cable communications retrenchment in government, tax reduction, repeal of wartime excess profits tax, reduction of railroad rates, promotion of agricultural interests, a national budget system, a great merchant marine and a department of public welfare. He also called for the abolition of lynching, but he did not want to make enemies in his own party and with the Democrats and did not fight for his program. Harding was the first president to take questions from reporters and enter them into a pool to answer at press conferences. He would time the sessions so that reporters could meet morning deadlines.

The Hardings visited their home community of Marion, Ohio once during the term, when the city celebrated its Centennial during the first week of July. Harding arrived on July 3, gave a speech to the community at the Marion County Fairgrounds on July 4, and left the following morning for other speaking commitments.

In June 1923, Harding set out on a cross-country "Voyage of Understanding," planning to meet ordinary people and explain his policies. During this trip, he became the first president to visit Alaska. Rumors of corruption in his administration were beginning to circulate in Washington by this time, and Harding was profoundly shocked by a long message he received while in Alaska, apparently detailing illegal activities previously unknown to him. At the end of July, while traveling south from Alaska through British Columbia, he developed what was thought to be a severe case of food poisoning. He gave the final speech of his life to a large crowd at the University of Washington Stadium (now Husky Stadium) at the University of Washington campus in Seattle, Washington. A scheduled speech in Portland, Oregon was canceled. The President's train proceeded south to San Francisco. Arriving at the Palace Hotel, he developed pneumonia. Harding died of either a heart attack or a stroke at 7:35 p.m. on August 2, 1923. The formal announcement, printed in the New York Times of that day, stated that "A stroke of apoplexy was the cause of death." He had been ill exactly one week. Naval physicians surmised that he had suffered a heart attack; however, this diagnosis was not made by Dr. Charles E. Sawyer, the Surgeon General, who was traveling with the presidential party. Mrs. Harding refused permission for an autopsy, which soon led to speculation that the President had been the victim of a plot, possibly carried out by his wife. Harding was succeeded by Vice President Calvin Coolidge, who was sworn in by his father, a Justice of the Peace, in Plymouth Notch, Vermont. Following his death, Harding's body was returned to Washington, where it was placed in the East Room of the White House pending a state funeral at the United States Capitol. White House employees at the time were quoted as saying that the night before the funeral, they heard Mrs. Harding speak for more than an hour to her dead husband. Harding was entombed in the receiving vault of the Marion Cemetery, Marion, Ohio, in August 1923. Following Mrs. Harding's death on November 21, 1924, she too was temporarily buried next to her husband. Both bodies were moved in December 1927 to the newly completed Harding Memorial in Marion, which was dedicated by President Herbert Hoover in 1931. The lapse between the final interment and the dedication was partly because of the aftermath of the Teapot Dome scandal. At the time of his death, Harding was also survived by his father.

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