Thursday, March 08, 2001

Ohio powers praise Rhodes

'We will likely not see anyone like him again'

By Spencer Hunt
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

        COLUMBUS — The state's leaders Wednesday offered their tributes to former Gov. James A. Rhodes, the most dominant figure in Ohio politics.

[photo] Draped with the Ohio flag, the coffin of former Gov. James A. Rhodes is attended by an honor guard
(Michael E. Keating photos)
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        “We lost a legend, a man whose accomplishments cast a long shadow over this state,” Senate President Richard Finan told a somber gathering of family members, friends and Ohio's top officials. “We will likely not see anyone like him again.”

        All scheduled work stopped at the General Assembly in honor of Mr. Rhodes, who died Sunday from an infection and heart failure at age 91. As his body lay in state, a short list of former political colleagues eulogized Ohio's only four-term governor in a rare joint session of the General Assembly.

        In speech after speech, all described Mr. Rhodes as a plain-spoken, self-made man who had the rare ability to turn his visions into reality.

        “Jim Rhodes had more ideas in a week than most people have in a lifetime,” said Gov. Bob Taft, who returned from a South American trade mission to speak at the services.

[photo] Ken Blackwell, Ohio secretary of state, pays his respects Wednesday.
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        Since Ohio became a state in 1803, no other person has held the governor's office longer (16 years) or left as big a mark.

        Mr. Rhodes helped create Ohio's municipal airports, joint vocational schools and its community college system. He shepherded major expansions of public universities and state parks, and helped lead an effort that built Cinergy Field in downtown Cincinnati.

        A Republican who spent and borrowed millions on construction projects, his statue stands at the doors of Columbus' tallest office tower, which bears his name.

        He also was the man who sent the Ohio National Guard to Kent State University to quell a May 1970 anti-Vietnam War protest. Though the deaths of four students left a permanent stain on his legacy, his well-wishers focused on his accomplishments for the state.

        “There were some sad detractions during his service, but none could deny his impact,” said Charles Kurfess, former Republican House Speaker.

        Harry Meshel, former Ohio Senate president and a past chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, talked about the governor's rare sense of humor.

[photo] The Rodriguez family of Powell, Ohio, pass by the coffin of former Gov. James A. Rhodes in the Statehouse.
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        “If you did something wrong, he would say, "Don't worry about it. You won't be here next year anyhow,'” Mr. Meshel said. “Now, how do you answer that?”

        Mr. Rhodes was the first person to lie in state at the Capitol since longtime speaker Vern Riffe died in 1997. From 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., hundreds of people passed by Mr. Rhodes' casket.

        Other speakers at Wednesday's services included current House Speaker Larry Householder, U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine, U.S. Sen. George Voinovich, Ohio Chief Justice Thomas Moyer, former House Speaker Jo Ann Davidson and former House Majority Leader William Mallory.

        “He was a man of ideas and action,” Mr. Mallory said. “Let it be said of Gov. Rhodes, "Well done.'”

        Services for James Rhodes continue today with a 10 a.m. gathering at Upper Arlington Lutheran Church. Burial will be in Greenlawn Cemetery in Columbus.


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