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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.

  • The statue of James A. Rhodes

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.

 Our Town: Jackson. United States of America. WOUB Public Media, 2017. DVD.