Warren G. Harding

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Subject Profile

(November 2, 1865 – August 2, 1923)

Warren Gamaliel Harding was an influential newspaper publisher, Ohio State Senator (1899-1903), Lieutenant Governor of Ohio (1903-1905), and a U.S. Senator (1915-1921) before becoming the 29th President of the United States (1921-1923).

Harding was born in 1865 in Blooming Grove, Ohio, to a large family of English, Scottish, and Dutch descent. Harding obtained a standard education in his youth and went on to attend Ohio Central College, where he specifically studied the printing and newspaper trade. After graduating in 1882 with a Bachelor of Science degree, Harding bought a struggling weekly newspaper in Marion, Ohio, and thus jumpstarted his career as an influential newspaper publisher. With the rising success of his paper, the Marion Star, Harding soon found himself mingling with powerful members of both the corporate and political world; and it was through these new associations that he quickly made his way into politics. As an up-and-coming Republican, Harding served as a Senator of Ohio (1899-1902), Lieutenant Governor of Ohio (1903-1904), and U.S. Senator (1915-1921).

In 1920, with the Republican Party deadlocked in its selection of a presidential candidate, Harding was nominated as an inner-party compromise. Remarkably, he won the election by a landslide, garnering 60 percent of the popular vote. During his one term in office (1921-1923), Harding promoted naval disarmament, eliminated wartime controls, reduced taxes, established a Federal budget system, and endorsed African-American civil rights. Despite his various achievements though, the Harding administration is overwhelmingly marred by scandal and corruption, for Harding’s appointment of campaign contributors and supporters to powerful political offices led to the exploitation of their positions for personal gain. Before the scandal broke, however, Harding died suddenly from a heart attack on August 2, 1923—with only seven months remaining to the end of his term. He was survived by his wife Florence Kling DeWolfe, a divorcée five years his senior whom he married in 1891; they never had any children of their own, but Florence’s stepson lived with them periodically.