JAMES ALLEN RHODES was born in Coalton, Ohio. His father, a Welsh coal miner, died when Rhodes was eight years old, and Rhodes worked at odd jobs after school to help provide for his mother and two sisters. His family obligations also led to his leaving Ohio State University before graduating. The family was living in Columbus at that time, and Rhodes opened a restaurant near the Ohio State University campus. He was elected to the Columbus School Board in 1937. In 1939, he was elected Columbus City Auditor. In 1943, he was elected Mayor of Columbus, a position that he held until 1951. The following year he was elected State Auditor, and while serving in that position, he ran for governor twice, unsuccessfully in 1954 and successfully in 1962. During his first gubernatorial term he became known for laying off state workers and starting a massive project constructing roads, parks, colleges, and airports. Reelected in 1966, he served as Chairman of the Midwestern Governors Association for a year and was a member of the National Governors Association’s Executive Committee. While Rhodes made “Jobs and Progress” the theme of his administrations, social programs and conditions for the mentally ill foundered. His darkest day as governor was May 4, 1970, when Ohio National Guard troops fired on anti-Vietnam War demonstrators at Kent State University, killing four students and wounding nine. His second term ended that year, but after a hiatus of four years as required by term limits, Rhodes was reelected governor in 1974 for one additional term. He lost a final reelection bid in 1986.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 3. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.
The Ohio Historical Center
Governors of the American States, Commonwealths and Territories, National Governors Association, 1978.