Sunday, May 12, 2013

Former Pennsylvania Gov. George M. Leader (1918-2013)

It is difficult to image a better name for a politician, and it seems that this former governor of Pennsylvania lived up to his. 

In 1954, at the age of 40, largely on the strength of the relatively new technology of television, George M. Leader won an upset victory to become governor of the state. 

New York Times:

Mr. Leader, a Democratic state senator at the time, had been given little chance of winning the 1954 gubernatorial race against Lt. Gov. Lloyd Wood, a rumpled, cigar-chomping political boss. But he pulled off the upset after running a strong television advertising campaign, one of the earliest in American politics. Two years before, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower had been the first to use TV ads extensively in a presidential campaign.

Mr. Leader’s victory was widely attributed to his use of television, allowing him to introduce himself and appeal directly to voters in their living rooms.

Here are some accomplishments from his one four-year term as governor (the maximum allowed by law at the time): 

  • He cut the population in Pennsylvania’s mental hospitals to 11,000 from 39,000 by giving more state money to mental health clinics that helped patients adjust to life outside hospitals.
  • He signed a law changing Pennsylvania’s school code to require the education of the disabled. Within five years, 250,000 more children swelled the enrollment lists in public schools.
  • He was the first Pennsylvania governor to appoint a black cabinet officer and was active in promoting a role for the state in protecting civil rights for African-Americans and other minorities. 
  • He sought to rid the government of patronage jobs and improve social services.

He lost a bid for the U.S. Senate in 1958 and never ran for office again, "devoting himself to his assisted-living businesses and to causes like prison reform."

He died on May 9 in Hershey, Pennsylvania at the age of 95.

(Cross-posted at Phantom Public.)

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