James A. Rhodes is one of only six Ohio governors to serve two eight-year terms. He is well-known in part because he sent the Ohio National Guard to Kent State University in May 1970 after the campus ROTC building was burned by an unknown arsonist. The subsequent shootings on campus led to the death of four students while nine others were injured. Still, Rhodes is generally remembered favorably because of improvements he made while in office. Under Rhodes, the Ohio State Fair turned into the largest in the nation, Ohio became the leader in the development of interstate highways, and Ohio’s park system was extended.
James A. Rhodes was born in Coalton, Ohio on September
13, 1909. He attended school in the nearby city of Jackson. While he was very
young, his father died, and his mother told the family that all they were going
to know from then on was hard work. Indeed, Rhodes worked as a janitor and
turned peanuts in the roaster at the local ice cream shop, Michael's Ice Cream,
as a child. Rhodes never forgot his childhood in Jackson: For his 89th
birthday, Rhodes returned to Michael’s and served customers. And when the
Jackson City Schools were looking for a new mascot, he wrote to one of the
local newspapers and suggested that the new mascot should be the Ironmen, in
honor of Jackson's long history in the iron industry.
Rhodes served his first eight-year term
from 1963 to 1971 and his second from 1975 to 1983. During those times, he expanded
the state university system to include twelve schools and established the Ohio
vocational school system, building forty-nine facilities. He was one of the
founders of the Pan-America Games and Rhodes's Raiders, a team that traveled
the world enticing businesses to locate themselves in Ohio. He was the first
governor to lead a trade mission to China. He also led
the way in building Ohio's part of the Appalachian highway system, without
which the two main lanes
of traffic north to south and east to west would not exist.