Iowa History Daily: On November 28, 1936, George Washington Clarke, Iowa’s 21st governor, died. Leaving behind a legacy of building roads and consolidated country schools (and an incredibly ‘Iowa famous’ grandson), Clarke stands out as an important early-20th visionary of Iowa’s changing future.
Born in Indiana during 1852, Clarke’s family heeded the call of the age and headed west to Iowa in 1856. Settling in Drakesville, Davis County, the young George Washington Clarke walked four miles one-way to attend Bloomfield High School. A graduate of Oskaloosa College in 1877, Clarke went on to obtain a law degree from the Iowa State College at Iowa City before opening a law practice in Adel.
Entering politics as the Dallas County Representative to the 28th Iowa General Assembly, Clarke rapidly rose to serve in important roles including head of the Judiciary Committee and Speaker of the House before successfully running for Lieutenant Governor in 1908. Clarke’s election to serve as Governor in 1912 allowed a platform for his policies related to school consolidation and road construction. During Clarke’s tenure 64 schools consolidated into 49 newly constructed high schools, teacher pay reached a (then) all-time high, and increased school enrollment throughout the state.
In the realm of roads, Clarke oversaw the passage of the Road Law of 1913 which created the Iowa State Highway Commission (now Iowa DOT) and kicked off an expansive era of road construction and bridge building. Clarke’s grandson, Nile Kinnick, went on to outshine his gubernatorial grandfather on the football field at the University of Iowa. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar #IowaHistoryDaily