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Warren Gamaliel Harding Passes Away

Today in Masonic History Warren Gamaliel Harding passes away in 1923.

Warren Gamaliel Harding was an American politician and 29th President of the United States.

Harding was born in Blooming Grove, Ohio on November 2nd, 1865. He was nicknamed "winnie" from a young age. Although the family claimed it to be untrue, one of Harding's great-grandmothers was African-American. Various African-Americans have come forward over the years claiming to be a relative of Harding. Harding would graduate from the Ohio Central College in Iberia in 1882. During his final year the Harding family would move to Marion, Ohio where Harding would live the majority of his life.

At the age of 18, Harding, along with a couple of friends would buy the Marion Star, one of three local papers. The Star was the worst performing of the three and the only daily paper in Marion. After some tough starts, Hading would get the paper running and making a profit. The town of Marion tended to vote Republican, Marion County was decidedly Democrat though. To help the paper get advertisers, Harding would keep the articles and editorials more centrists with a slight Republican lean.

It was through the Star, that Harding would meet his wife, Florence King. Florence came to Hardings attention because of her father, for who Harding had a strong dislike. Harding would attack Florence's father in the paper repeatedly. Florence's father was a local banker and used to getting what he wanted. Eventually Harding and Florence would wed. They would have no children, they would be a power couple though in the true sense of the words. Florence would help Harding run the newspaper when he would go out of town for speeches and other business. It was said that Florence motivated, in some situations forced, Harding into the positions and successes he would achieve, including the White House.

In 1899, Harding would be elected to the Ohio State Senate. He would be elected twice and serve a total of 4 years in the Senate. In 1903, he announced that he would run for the Governor's office. Republican leadership felt that Harding was going to un-electable in the new Progressive Era. They convinced him to run for Lieutenant Governor, he would successfully win the position. In 1905, he announced that he would be running for the Governor's office again. This angered many in the Ohio Republican party since the sitting Governor was a Republican as well. Harding did not feel he was getting the job done. He was eventually convinced not to run and sought no office in 1905.

In 1914, after the passing of the Seventeenth Amendment which allowed states to elect their senators, Harding enter the Republican Primary for the position and easily won the nomination. He would go up against Timothy Hogan who was seen by some in Ohio as an outsider and worse at the time in Ohio, a Roman Catholic. Propaganda sheets were spread around claiming that Hogan was the vanguard of a plot led by Pope Benedict XV through the Knights of Columbus of Ohio. Harding would win the general election and become the Junior Senator from Ohio.

At the end of World War I, Harding was opposed to the Treaty of Versailles, specifically the portion about the League of Nations. Many disliked Article X which required all members of the League of Nations to come to the aid of any other member nation if they were attacked. To Harding and others, this was essentially taking the United States Senate out of any decision process of whether the country would go to war or not. In 1920, he would give a speech against the Treaty and it would be defeated in the Senate.

In 1920, Harding would seek the Republican nomination for President. He would receive it and go to win the general election. During his short term in office he would officially end World War I for the United States. He would still have to deal with the League of Nations which he was very opposed to. Eventually in1922, he would begin dealing with the league on a diplomatic footing. He would call for disarmament of the United States stating that congress should "be unmindful of the call for reduced expenditure" on defense.

Harding seemed inclined to do more for African Americans than previous Republicans. He would direct his cabinet members to find positions in their departments for African Americans. He would also give a speech in Birmingham, Alabama to a segregated audience of 20,000 whites and 10,000 blacks. In the speech he would state that the social and racial differences between blacks and whites could not be bridged, political rights should be equal for all. He would also state that literacy tests for voting continue as long as they were fairly applied to African American voters. During the speech White audience members stood in silence while black audience members cheered. The cheering would slow though in 1922, when an anti-lynching bill was brought before the Senate which Harding favored. Southern Democrats filibustered and the bill was pulled so that another bill could be put forward. The second bill was defeated as well. African American voters blamed Harding for the failure of the bill.

Harding would pass away in San Francisco after heart problems and pneumonia which he had for close to week before passing. The official cause of death was cerebral hemorrhage.

Harding was a member of Marion Lodge No. 70 in Marion, Ohio.