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Governor Thomas Matthew Berry

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Office Dates:  Jan 03, 1933 - Jan 05, 1937

Born:  Apr 23, 1879

Passed:  Oct 30, 1951

Birth State:  Nebraska

Party:  Democrat

Family:  Married Lorena McLain; four children


THOMAS MATTHEW BERRY was born in Paddock, Nebraska and attended public school in O'Neill, Nebraska. After moving to South Dakota, he homesteaded in Gregory County, later moving to Todd County and eventually settling in Mellette County on a ranch where he raised cattle. He served three terms in the South Dakota House of Representatives and was a member of the Custer State Park Board. He defeated incumbent Governor Warren Green in the Roosevelt landslide of 1932, going on to assist South Dakota's recovery from the Great Depression. As governor, he helped secure federal aid and acted as Federal Relief Administrator in 1935 and 1936. Berry reduced the state debt and called the legislature into emergency session twice, once to legalize 3.2 percent alcoholic beer and the second time to enact unemployment insurance. During his administration, state property tax was abolished and replaced by a gross income tax, which was in turn replaced by a state sales tax. Berry was defeated for a third gubernatorial term in 1936 and for a U.S. Senate seat in 1942. In 1942 he was appointed director of the Omaha district of the Farm Credit Administration, serving in that position until 1947. He was also president of the "Cowboys of 1902," made up of riders who had taken part in the last major roundup on the prairies of western South Dakota. He died in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Sources:

Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 41. New York: James T. White & Company.

South Dakota State Historical Society