Back to former California governors
James Rolph

Gov. James Rolph

  • January 8, 1931 - June 2, 1934
  • Republican
  • August 23, 1869
  • June 2, 1934
  • California
  • Married Annie Marshall Reid; three children
  • Died in office


JAMES ROLPH JR. was born in San Francisco, California, on August 23, 1869. He attended Trinity Academy in San Francisco, and started his livelihood in the shipping business as an office boy. He later owned a shipping firm, the James Rolph Company, and in 1928, was a partner in the James Rolph Jr., Landis, and Ellis, a general insurance firm. Rolph entered politics in 1911 as mayor of San Francisco, where he served for 20 years. On November 4, 1930, he was elected Governor of California, and on January 6, 1931, he was sworn into office. During his tenure, work on the Colorado River Aqueduct started, construction on Boulder Dam was initiated, and the Olympic games at Los Angeles opened in 1932. The California legislature ratified the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; land was assigned for the Death Valley National Monument, and in Long Beach an earthquake caused $60 million in damage. Rolph received criticism for signing legislation that caused taxes to fall unfairly on the poor, for endorsing a brutal jailbreak lynching in San Jose, and for openly ignoring prohibition laws. One of his solutions for the financial misery during the Great Depression was for everyone to take a two-week holiday. On June 2, 1934, Governor James Rolph passed away while recuperating from an illness.


Official Records: California State Archives

Personal Papers: California State Library: California History Section

Image source: California State Library: Governors’ Gallery

Governors of California 1849-2002

Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 1, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

Recent California Governors