Harry Hines Woodring, Governor, U.S. Secretary of War

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Harry Hines Woodring

Birthdate: (77)
Birthplace: Elk City, Kansas, USA
Death: September 9, 1967 (77)
Topeka, KS, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of Hines Woodring and Melissa Jane Cooper
Husband of Helen Woodring

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Immediate Family

About Harry Hines Woodring, Governor, U.S. Secretary of War


Harry Hines Woodring (May 31, 1890 – September 9, 1967) was an American politician, a Democrat, who was the twenty-fifth governor of Kansas, and Secretary of War in President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Cabinet.


Woodring was born in 1890 in Elk City, Kansas. He was educated in city and county schools and at sixteen began work as a janitor in the First National Bank of Neodesha, Kansas. He attended Lebanon Business University for one year, which gained him employment as a bookkeeper and assistant cashier of the First National Bank in Elk City.


Woodring soon became assistant cashier at the First National Bank of Neodesha. Woodring moved up quickly to become vice president and owner of the bank until he enlisted as a private in the US Army. He was later commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Tank Corps in World War I. He was elected department commander of the American Legion in Kansas then in 1928 he sold his banking business to enter politics.

Woodring won the Kansas gubernatorial election of 1930 in a controversial three-way race with Republican Frank Haucke and write-in candidate and goat-gland transplantation specialist, Dr. John Brinkley. He served as governor of Kansas from 1931 to 1933. As the only Democrat elected to a statehouse office, his efforts to cut expenditures were largely blocked by Republicans, so he cut his own salary and the Highway Department, the one place where Democrats had control.

On July 25, 1933, Woodring married Helen Coolidge, daughter of United States Senator Marcus A. Coolidge, and they had three children.

Woodring served as Assistant Secretary of War from 1933 to 1936, with supervision over procurement matters. He was promoted and served as Secretary of War under President Franklin Roosevelt from 1936 to 1940. He projected the recommendations of his predecessor for increasing the strength of the Regular Army, National Guard, and the Reserve Corps. During his tenure he directed a revision of mobilization plans to bring personnel and procurement into balance and stressed the need to perfect the initial (peacetime) protective force.

A strict non-interventionist, Woodring came under pressure from other cabinet members to resign in the first year of World War II. Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes met with Roosevelt at least twice to call for Woodring's firing, but FDR was at first unwilling to do so, instead appointing outspoken interventionist Louis A. Johnson as Woodring's assistant secretary of war. Woodring and Johnson were immediately at odds, and quickly reached the point where they refused to speak to each other. On June 20, 1940, Roosevelt ended the struggle by finally firing Woodring, replacing him with long-time Republican politician Henry Stimson.

Woodring ran unsuccessfully for Governor of Kansas in 1946, and for the Democratic Party nomination for that post in 1956.


Woodring died following a stroke in Topeka, Kansas on September 9, 1967. He is interred at the Mount Hope Cemetery, Topeka, Shawnee County Kansas USA.

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Harry Hines Woodring, Governor, U.S. Secretary of War's Timeline

May 31, 1890
Elk City, Kansas, USA
September 9, 1967
Age 77
Topeka, KS, USA