of Kansas, Secretary of War
Harry Hines Woodring was born
in Elk City, Kansas, on May
31, 1890. He was educated in city and county
schools, but dropped out of high school a year
before graduation; instead, he took a one-year
course in business and commerce at the University
of Lebanon (Indiana).
Woodring began his working
career at the age of sixteen, as a janitor for
the Elk City Bank. Soon promoted to bookkeeper,
he became an assistant cashier within two years.
Moving to Neodesha in 1907, he became the cashier
of the First National Bank.
When World War I
broke out, Woodring enlisted as a private, but
was quickly commissioned as a Second Lieutenant
in the Tank Corps.
After the war, Woodring
returned to the First National Bank of Neodesha.
Quickly rising through the ranks, he soon became
president of the bank, and later its owner. A
savvy businessman, he knew that the stock market
bubble of 1929 would eventually burst, and he
sold his interests in the bank in March, just a
few months before the crash.
Woodring was elected Governor
of Kansas in 1930, defeating Republican Frank
Haucke and Independent John Brinkley.
Taking office during the early Depression years,
Woodring voluntarily cut his salary by ten per
cent and appealed to other state employees to do
likewise. He also made drastic cutbacks in most
areas of state government. He got most of the
legislation he wanted, including tax relief,
tighter control on the sale of securities, a
permanent Crippled Children's Commission, the
requirement of drivers' licenses for motor
vehicle operators, a separate Kansas State Labor
Department, and the reduction of utility rates.
His efforts to find markets for Kansas oil met
with little success, however. During his
administration, Woodring vetoed two bills. The
first concerned an investigation into the State
Highway Commission, which had become the largest
state employer; the second would have reinstated
capital punishment. He was defeated for
re-election by Republican Alf Landon in
Soon after losing his bid for
re-election, Woodring married Helen Coolidge,
with whom he had three children. The couple
divorced in 1960.
In 1933, Woodring was named
Assistant Secretary of War, under President
Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Following the death of Secretary George H. Dern
in 1936, he became Acting Secretary of War, and
was confirmed as Secretary of War in 1937. During
his tenure the military adopted the practice of
competitive bidding as a standard procurement
procedure. In addition, artillery guns were
motorized, semi-automatic guns and anti-aircraft
weapons were developed, and new tanks were built.
It was Woodring who led the development of the
four-engine B-17, which he dubbed the
"Flying Fortress." Woodring was also
the man who recommended the appointment of George
C. Marshall as the Army
Chief of Staff. Woodring resigned in June 1940
because of a dispute with President Roosevelt
over the deployment of B-17's in Britain while
the United States was still an officially neutral
Returning to Kansas, Woodring
twice more tried to regain the governorship of
Kansas. In 1946 he was defeated by Republican
Frank Carlson; in 1956 he lost the Democratic
nomination to George Docking.
Harry Hines Woodring died in
Topeka, Kansas, on September 9, 1967.
World War I
Franklin D. Roosevelt
George C. Marshall
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