Born and raised in Canisteo, New York, ROBERT DENISON HOLMES moved with his family to Oregon just after finishing high school. He worked briefly in the newspaper business and then enrolled in the University of Oregon, graduating in 1932. Five years later he moved to Clatsop County, where he became involved in radio work and advanced to manager of station KAST in Astoria, a position in which he served from 1943 until 1957. He was also involved in education, serving on both the Gearhart City and Clatsop County rural school boards in the 1940s. Originally a Republican, Holmes switched to the Democratic Party and was the first Democrat from Clatsop County to win election to the Oregon state Senate in more than a half-century. As a state Senator, he won praise for his efforts to improve the state’s educational system. Holmes is also credited with helping to strengthen a state Democratic Party that had been weakened by a rift between conservative and liberal interests. In addition to Holmes’ win of the gubernatorial election, Democrats won three of the four races for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and a critical seat in the U.S. Senate. In addition, the Democratic Party controlled the state legislature for the first time in more than sixty years. As governor, Holmes established the first Department for Economic Planning and began using state reserves to help fund social welfare and education measures, enabling a reduction in taxes. He also sought improved wages and working conditions for labor; the development of public power; and the abolition of capital punishment.
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. I. New York: James T. White & Company.