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Hon. John M. Pattison
THE COMMENT has often been truthfully made that
deserved appreciation of really great men is too frequently withheld until death awakens society, or a
nation, to a sense of its loss. This is less true of the
late Governor John M. Pattison, of Ohio, than of most distinguished personages. There was never a period in his illus- trious career when his mental equipment was not recognized as of a superior order alike by those who approved of his doctrines and those who dissented. None ever failed to credit him with high moral purpose, true nobility of character, sterling sense of justice, able and comprehensive statesmanship, and firm adherence to the loftiest of political, social, and business ideals. At his death his place was easily that of the first Ohioan, and would have been so even without the distinction and attracted homage due to the chief executive. This universal estimate of his exalted character became more pronounced after his sudden departure. The restraints of politics were removed; sentiment assumed free and open expression; he was deliberately reweighed in all his attributes of character, in his accomplishments, in his relations to public and civic affairs, and what had been the common verdict was only rendered the more emphatic. Honors, no matter how profuse, were all too insufficient for the distinguished dead. Mourning, however sincere and general, was but a feeble expression of the deep-seated sense of the bereavement. It was John M. Pattison who had been gathered to his fathers.
Governor Pattison was born June 13, 1847, in Clermont County, Ohio, of a sterling old pioneer family, distinguished for their industry and probity of character. His father devoted his active life to general agricultural pursuits, also maintained a country store, and he was a man of influence in his community, although not in any sense a public man.
The boyhood days of John M. Pattison were spent, like those of most youths of that period, in working on the farm during the crop seasons and in attending the rural schools in the winter time. He also assisted his father in his store. When but sixteen years of age, he proved his courage and patriotism by enlisting toward the end of the Civil War in the one-hundred-day service of the Union army. After his military career, he was honorably discharged and returned home, and not long thereafter entered the Ohio Wesleyan University at Delaware, where he made an excellent record in the regular classical course and was graduated with the class of 1869. He deserved great credit for his noble struggle to obtain a higher education. He worked on the farm during vacation periods and taught school to obtain money with which to defray his expenses in college, where he spent only about twenty months, it having been necessary to cut his terms short in order to earn enough to maintain himself during this period. However, he utilized every moment, poured over his text-hooks until late at night, and was fully prepared to graduate with the class in which he entered the university. Such men are always
heard from in later life; they are the men who go far in the world's affairs. Ohio Wesleyan University has never graduated such a remarkable class as that of 1869. Indeed, it is doubtful if any other American institution has ever graduated a class containing so many men who rose to eminence. Among its numbers were one vice-president, two United States Senators, three governors, one attorney-general, three congressmen, one bishop, one university professor, one general, ten judges, and several State senators.
Mr. Pattison located in Bloomington, Illinois, after leaving the university, and began life for himself in the insurance business. He met with exceptional success from the first, which later led to his rise to the presidency of the company he represented. But believing that the legal profession held greater opportunities for him, he returned to Ohio and entered the Cincinnati Law School, where he made a brilliant record, and from which institution he was graduated in 1872, and was admitted to the bar soon thereafter and built up a very satisfactory clientage. Taking an interest in public affairs, in 1873, when twenty-five years of age, he was elected representative to the legislature from Hamilton County by the largest vote of any candidate on the ticket. Desiring to devote his attention exclusively to his personal affairs, he declined renomination at the expiration of his term as a lawmaker. He became a member of the law firm of Yaple, Moos & Pattison, and for ten years was actively engaged in the practice of his profession, and he was editor of a law magazine during three ;years of that time. From 1874 to 1876, he was attorney for the Committee of Safety of Cincinnati. It was a non-political organization and did much for the purification of politics in that city.
In 1881, Mr. Pattison was elected vice-president of the Union Central Life Insurance Company of Cincinnati, and in 1891 became president of the Company upon the death of Dr. John Davis. For a period of more than thirty-five years, this institution has been the largest of its kind in the State of Ohio, and it is a noteworthy fact that its greatest period of progress was while Mr. Pattison was president.
Returning to public life, he was nominated in 1890 to fill the vacancy in the State senate which resulted from the death of Judge Ashburn, of the Clermont-Brown senatorial district. He did not desire the place, but the people had such confidence in his ability and integrity that they elected him by an unusually large majority. He received in his own county of Clermont the largest majority ever given to any man on the State ticket in that county. His election was of much importance to the Democratic party, and his campaign for the senate attracted attention all over the country, in fact, became a national issue. The redistribution of congressional districts was about to be made, and upon that redistribution would depend the complexion of Ohio's representation in Congress. He made such a notable record in the State senate that he was elected, before his term expired, to the fifty-second United States Congress, carrying his district by more than two thousand votes. His record in Congress was a most
commendable one, and the people in every State soon knew of his unusual ability as a statesman. He was a stanch supporter of all movements having for their object the general 'good of the masses. One of the many excellent measures which he was instrumental in passing, secured the first appropriations for rural free delivery. He was an advocate of the Sunday closing law, and had made a speech on the floor of Congress opposing the proposed opening of the Columbian Exposition at Chicago on Sunday.
At the end of his first term, he was renominated by his enthusiastic constituents, but went down with the rest of his party in defeat, the Republicans, meanwhile, having gerrymandered the State of Ohio, making his district over five thousand Republican. Returning to private life after the expiration of his term in Congress, he devoted his entire time to the Union Central Life Insurance Company, and it flourished under his able management and wise counsel.
In 1905, the Democrats of Ohio cast about for a candidate for governor whose character and reputation would be a guarantee to the people that the affairs of the State would be both ably and honestly conducted. The man most eligible for the place was John M. Pattison, for in addition to being a man whose record was untarnished, he was known to favor the temperance movement, then gathering momentum all over the country. While he was ever loyal to Democratic principles, he was not a biased partisan, and his unquestioned ability, integrity, and high ideals distinguished him as a man peculiarly fitted for the governor's chair. He was nominated and duly elected by a majority of forty-three thousand over Myron T. Herrick, although only two years previously Mr. Herrick had been elected on the Republican ticket by a majority of fourteen thousand, and there had been no Democratic governor for a period of fourteen years. The fact that Mr. Pattison was the only Democratic candidate on the State ticket to win, indicated that his election was purely a personal one, and proved his popularity and the confidence reposed in him by his fellow citizens. He was inaugurated January 8, 1906. His health was already weakened by the arduous duties of the campaign, and he never again entered the State House, although he transacted at his home a large amount of important government business.
His illness terminated in death on June 18, of that year, a strange dispensation of Providence, which caused a pall of gloom to overspread the entire State, and few men that Ohio has produced were more deeply or sincerely mourned.
Governor Pattison was twice married, first to Aletheia Williams, who died, leaving four children, three of whom are living in Cincinnati, namely: Aletheia E., Ernestine, and John Williams Pattison. In 1893, he was married to Anna Williams, a sister of his first wife and a daughter of Professor William G. Williams, a distinguished educator, who for a period of fifty-seven years was professor of Greek at Ohio Wesleyan University.
Governor Pattison was a thirty-second degree Mason, belonging to the Scottish Rite Lodge. He was a member of the Cincinnati Commercial Club, the Queen City Club, and the Business Men's Club. He belonged to the Methodist Episcopal Church at Milford, Ohio, where his country home was located, and was one of the financial mainstays of the church. He was a man of pure ideals, exalted morality, and Christian virtues. He has been assigned to a deservedly exalted and, no doubt, permanent niche in the hall of fame, there to stand as an encouragement to noble, statesman-like endeavor, and an inspiration to the youth of our land.
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