Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Medina's Governor

John W. Brown

The Ohio State House
Governor Portraits
HAH! Did you know that Medina had a resident who served as Governor of the State of Ohio?

John William Brown was born in Athens, Ohio on 28 December 1913 to James A. and Daisy (FOSTER) Brown. His father was born in Scotland, immigrating to America in 1890 and becoming a naturalized citizen in 1918.

In the 1920 census, the family was still living in Athens, Ohio and James was working as a traveling salesman. By 1930,the family  had moved to Lancaster, Fairfield County, Ohio. But by 1940, James is no longer listed with the family. John and his mother are still in Fairfield County, and he is working as a theater manager. Shortly after that, John attended the patrol training school in Columbus. By November of 1941 he was hired as the sixth State Highway Patrolman for Medina County.

As a young bachelor in a new town, John Brown made the local news, evoking either Don Juan or Don Knotts (as Barney Fife).

In January of 1942, this amusing tale casts John as an aspiring, if bumbling, Don Juan:

The Medina Gazette, 6 January 1942, page 2.

The "affair" with the young lady from Cleveland must have gone nowhere, because three short months later, Patrolman Brown was getting married...

The Medina Gazette  7  April 1942, page 3.

To a nurse from Lodi, named Velma Hovatter.

Next, in a tale that could have been taken from an episode of Mayberry R.F.D., Mr. Brown is again in the papers...

The Medina Gazette 7 July 1942, page 2.

In August of 1942, Patrolman Brown became Boatswain's Mate Brown when he joined the Coast Guard:

The Medina County Gazette, 18 August 1942 page 1.
Sometime during the next year, John and his first wife, Velma divorced. John married Violet Helman on 3 May 1943 in Florida.

After the war, John returned to Medina and opened an appliance store.

In 1949, he declared his candidacy for Mayor of Medina:

The Medina Gazette 14 January 1949,page 1.
John W. Brown served as Medina's mayor from 1950-1953.

In 1953, he was elected Lieutenant Governor of the State of Ohio, under Governor Frank Lausch. When Lausch was elected to the U.S. Senate, he resigned as governor. Brown became governor on 3 January 1957 and served through 14 January, when the in-coming Governor, C. William O'Neill, took office.

He served as Governor for 11 days. But they were a very busy 11 days. He:

  • Moved into the "old" Governor's mansion.
  • He moved into the Governor's office
  • He replaced the portraits of Democratic governors in the office with Republican governors.
  • He called the "lame-duck" cabinet together and assured them their jobs were safe.
  • He called a joint session of the General Assembly together and delivered a State of the State address.
  • He tried to settle a telephone strike in Portsmouth.
  • Began proceedings to appoint a Lieutenant Governor.
  • Insisted that he be paid the Governor's salary for his 11 days in office.
  • Commuted the sentences of five convicted murderers.
He went on to serve three more terms as Ohio's Lieutenant Governor under Governors Rhodes and Gilligan. He also was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives in 1959-1960 and a member of the Ohio Senate 1963-1975.

His 1993 obituary from the Medina Gazette chronicles his many, many accomplishments:

Medina Gazette 30 Oct 1993, page A-2

Brown lived the last years of his life in Medina, so it is fitting that Medina is his final resting place.

Tombstone photo from Spring Grove Cemetery on provided by Mark Pawelczak
So, now you know...

Ohio Politics edited by Alexander P. Lamis, Mary Anne Sharkey, available on Google Books
Ancestry Library Edition, available through MCDL
The Medina County Gazette:
       30 October, 1993, page A 2
       6 January 1942, page 2.
       7 July 1942, page 2.
       30 Oct 1993, page A-2


Anonymous said...

He served a very eventful 11 days as Governor.

Anonymous said...

In my early years I remember Mr. Brown, he lived on baxter st about 5 houses from where we lived and there were a few times I stopped by and he would talk to me.

Kat said...

What did you think of him? Was he imposing? Or did he just seem like any other neighbor?

Anonymous said...

He was always very nice to me

Anonymous said...

The Life of John Brown was very informative and interesting. Thank you for sharing