Monday, June 21, 2010

Governor John Gilligan

Governor John Gilligan served as a Naval Officer in World War II. He also served as the mayor of Cincinnati and as the Ohio State Congressman from Ohio and was governor of Ohio from 1970 to 1974. He also taught a class in government at Notre Dame Law School. He is now Professor Emeritus.

In the early 1970s, there was some speculation that Senator Edmund Muskie might select Gilligan as his running mate, should he win the Democratic nomination for President in 1972. (McGovern spoiled that plan.) There was some talk that Gilligan might be a future candidate for President of the United States. If he had, he would have been the ninth Ohioan to win the office.

However, in the summer of 1974, Gilligan managed to commit a gaffe of monumental proportions. Gilligan was already taking some heat for having instituted a state income tax. While attending the Ohio State Fair in 1974, a newsman asked Gilligan if he was going to visit the sheep shearing exhibit. For reasons known best to himself, Governor Gilligan replied, “I shear taxpayers.” (My collaborator just asked me, “Why would he say that?” You can ask Governor Gilligan the same question, but I suspect he got tired of the question thirty-five years ago.) Before the election, all Ohio voters had heard that line in Republican ads several trillion times. He lost the election and never ran for office again.

Indeed, for many years, if you broached the subject of him running again, you would get a laugh. I once heard a classmate at Notre Dame say that the only thing he knew about Gilligan was that he was governor during the Kent State massacre. The kid was wrong: it was Rhodes. My own strongest memory of Governor (by then Professor) Gilligan was taking his course in American Government in 1987.

My strongest memory of that class is that the fellow sitting next to me shaking my shoulder on more than one occasion. Not only was I sleeping in the class, but my snoring was distracting everyone. I’m happy Governor Gilligan never said anything about that to me.

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