JUDSON HARMON was born in Newton, Ohio. He entered Denison University at the age of sixteen and graduated four years later, after which he taught school and then studied law, receiving a degree from Cincinnati Law School in 1896. Although elected Judge of the Court of Common Pleas in Cincinnati in 1876, he was ousted from the position by the state Senate. Two years later he was elected to the Cincinnati Superior Court, a position in which he served for nearly a decade. Although originally a Republican, he joined the Democratic Party after the Civil War. President Grover Cleveland appointed him Attorney General in 1895. In 1897 Harmon returned to the practice of law and was appointed a special Investigator. He won two terms as governor, the second against Republican opponent and later U.S. President Warren G. Harding. During Harmon’s administration, the federal income tax amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, and laws were enacted establishing a single board for the state’s penal, benevolent, and reformatory institutions; protecting against trafficking in votes; providing for workers compensation; creating a Public Utility Commission; and enabling direct popular election of U.S. Senators. Harmon was Ohio’s favorite son candidate for President in 1912. However, despite his popularity in Ohio, Harmon’s prospects for national support diminished after William Jennings Bryant declared him a “reactionary” in response to his opposition to the idea of statewide initiatives and referendums. Consequently, he lost the Democratic nomination to Woodrow Wilson. Harmon returned to the practice of law when his second term as governor ended, and also taught law at his alma mater—Cincinnati Law School.
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 National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 13. New York: James T. White & Company.
Ohio Historical Society