Get Today in Masonic History into your Inbox. Sign up today for one of our email lists!

TODAY in Masonic History:

Facebook Twitter Google

Harley Martin Kilgore is Born

Today in Masonic History Harley Martin Kilgore is born in 1893.

Harley Martin Kilgore was an American politician.

Kilgore was born on January 11th, 1893 in Brown, West Virginia. He attended local public schools before attending West Virginia University where he graduated in 1914. He passed the bar that same year. After graduation he taught school and in 1915 established the first High School in Raleigh County, West Virginia where he was the first principal for a year. In 1916 he opened a private law practice.

In 1917, Kilgore enlisted in the United States Army during World War I. He served until 1920 when he was honorably discharged as a captain. In 1921, after returning from the war, he organized the West Virginia National Guard. He served in the National Guard until 1953 when he retired as a colonel.

From 1933 to 1940, Kilgore served as a judge on Raleigh County criminal court. In 1940 he was elected to the United States Senate. He would be reelected twice to the Senate serving through World War II and into the 1950's. In 1941 he was put on the Truman Committee, organized by Senator and future President Harry S. Truman. The committee's purpose was to fix war time production problems and investigate war profiteering. In 1942 he chaired the subcommittee on War Mobilization of the Military Affairs Committee which was commonly referred to as the Kilgore Committee.

It was also in 1942, Kilgore was approached by Herbert Schimmel, an American manufacturing expert who asked Kilgore to form a committee to centralize research done on the war effort. The idea was that all information and patents would be shared to help the war effort. Vannevar Bush who headed the United States Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD) was in favor of the spirit of the plan put forth by Kilgore, although he was opposed to the idea of government administration of science funding and patent sharing. As the war ended, Kilgore pushed forward with his plan, thinking that he had Bush's support for the organization that was now called the National Science Foundation. Calling it a Foundation was meant to alleviate fears in the scientific community that the government was going to be running research. Kilgore felt that calling it a Foundation made it sound more like a non-profit organiation. When Kilgore introduced his bill, a competing bill which was created by Bush and sponsored by a Senator from Washington named Magunson. Kilgore felt betrayed by Bush and would hold a grudge against him for many years.

Kilgore and Magunson negotiated with each other and eventually put together a modified bill. Alexander Smith of New Jersey, resurrected the Bush bill and was able to get it passed in the House and Senate. By this time, Truman was President and Kilgore convinced Truman to use a pocket veto, a method where no action is taken and the bill eventually expires, to get rid of the bill. Kilgore convinced Truman by warning that Bush's original plan would allow the military to dominate scientific research. Kilgore also convinced Truman to create the Presidential Research Board which was led by John Steelman.

In 1948, a compromise was reached and Kilgore and Smith co-sponsored a bill which Truman signed in 1950 creating the National Science Foundation.

Kilgore passed away while still serving in the Senate on February 28th, 1956.

Kilgore was a member of Beckley Lodge No. 95 in Beckley, West Virginia.