Albert Ritchie

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Albert Ritchie
Albert Ritchie, photo portrait head and shoulders.jpg
49th Governor of Maryland
In office
January 14, 1920 – January 9, 1935
Preceded by Emerson C. Harrington
Succeeded by Harry W. Nice
Personal details
Born Albert Cabell Ritchie
(1876-08-29)August 29, 1876
Richmond, Virginia
Died February 24, 1936(1936-02-24) (aged 59)
Baltimore, Maryland
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Catherine Baker
Children none
Residence Baltimore, Maryland
Religion Episcopal

Albert Cabell Ritchie (August 29, 1876 – February 24, 1936), was an American lawyer and politician. A Democrat, he was the 49th Governor of Maryland from 1920 to 1935. Ritchie was a conservative who campaigned for, but did not win, the presidential nomination in both 1924 and 1932. As of 2013, Ritchie is the state's longest-serving governor with 15 years of service, a record of four terms. Ritchie has the eighth longest gubernatorial tenure in post-Constitutional U.S. history at 5,475 days.[1]

Early life and family[edit]

Albert Ritchie was born on August 29, 1876 in Richmond, Virginia to relatively distinguished parents. His father, Albert, had served as a member of the Maryland Constitutional Convention in 1867, as a Professor of Law at the University of Maryland, as City Solicitor of Baltimore, Maryland, and as a judge. His mother, Elizabeth Caskie Cabell, was descended from a Governor of Virginia and from Joseph Cabell, a close associate of Thomas Jefferson.

Ritchie moved to Baltimore with his family shortly after his birth and received his early education from private schools - including the Carey School for Boys which later became known as the Boys' Latin School. He received a bachelor's degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1896, and his law degree from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1898. He entered into practice with the firm of Steele, Semmes, Carey and Bond in 1900, and in 1903 was appointed Assistant City Solicitor of Baltimore. The same year, he formed his own law practice with Stuart S. Janney. Ritchie continued to serve as Solicitor until 1910, and continued to practise law with Janney until 1919. In 1907, Ritchie was appointed as a professor of law at the University of Maryland School of Law.

In 1907, Ritchie married Elizabeth Catherine Baker of Catonsville, Maryland. However, in June 1916, Baker filed for divorce under the charge of abandonment, since Ritchie had left her to live with his mother in 1910. He did not challenge her claim, and the divorce was finalized soon thereafter. Ritchie never remarried, nor did he have any children.

Political career[edit]

Public Service Commission[edit]

On July 1, 1910, Ritchie was appointed as People's Counsel to the Public Service Commission of Baltimore. He garnered much attention for fighting to lower gas and electricity prices for the people of Baltimore that resulted in annual savings of $500,000. Ritchie resigned on February 16, 1913 to return to his law practice, where he took up a case against a local utility company for producing inferior quality gas. The Public Service Commission sided with Ritchie on the issue, and the result was further savings of $200,000 annually for the residents of Baltimore.

Attorney General of Maryland[edit]

Ritchie's actions did not go unnoticed, and he was nominated to be Attorney General of Maryland in 1915, a position he served in from December 20, 1915 to December 20, 1919. In the primary election, Ritchie defeated challenger William Milnes Maloy, who would later challenge him for Governor, by 20,000 votes. In the general election, Ritchie defeated his Republican rival, Albert Doub, by 25,000 votes. As Attorney General, Ritchie economized the state government by having the state law department assume the legal activities of nearly every department, with the exception of the Public Service Commission, thus eliminating the need for other departments to hire outside legal counsel.

On June 3, 1918, Ritchie took a leave of absence as Attorney General to serve on the War Industries Board as General Counsel. Established as a result of World War I, the War Industries Board was one of the most influential of all the wartime organizations established by the government. While on the board, Ritchie became a good friend of Bernard Baruch, the chairman of the board, and a man who would later support Ritchie's presidential aspirations. The Board was dissolved in December 1918, and Ritchie returned to his position as Attorney General.

Governor of Maryland[edit]

During the gubernatorial election of 1919, Ritchie made his interest known and quickly gained support from the state democrats. He went unopposed on the primary ticket, but the general election proved to be considerably more challenging, and also proved to be one of the closest elections in state history.

Harry Whinna Nice, the Republican nominee was a close friend and favorite of a notorious and powerful Democratic party boss in Baltimore City, John S. "Frank" Kelly. Harry Nice was a frequent caller to "Frank" Kelly's headquarters on West Saratoga Street in Baltimore while attending law school. The warm relationship Nice developed with "Boss" Kelly as he was also known, worked to his advantage and landed him a considerably high appointment following law school, assistant to the State's Attorney in Baltimore, this was especially surprising since Nice was a Republican in a city predominantly run by Democrats. It is still rumored to this day that Kelly, seeking to confirm and show the Democratic Party leadership trying to oust him, that he was still the top Democratic boss in Baltimore, pulled a few strings to get Nice appointed as a sign of just how powerful he was to any would be political challengers.

The election year of 1919, saw the political winds of fortune blowing strongly in the direction of the GOP, not only in Maryland but nationally as well. Convinced and initially backed by Kelly, Nice resigned as assistant State's Attorney and cast his hat into the gubernatorial race. However, Harry Nice then made a costly mistake. In speeches during the campaign, Nice promised to clean up the dirty underworld politics of the Democrats and their political bosses and ensure elections were fair and open to everyone. In this time period ballot stuffing, voter fraud and outright voter intimidation were common place, especially in large cities like Baltimore.

These speeches were taken by "Boss" Kelly as slap to the face, the man he had helped build politically was out condemning him and his business in public. While Kelly was no doubt enraged by this he was probably more embarrassed then anything else, the other Baltimore bosses saw this as weakness believing Kelly had no real control over his candidate as he had often claimed. So in a last minute decision on election day "Boss" Kelly, switched his support from his former friend Harry Nice to Albert Ritchie and swung just enough votes Ritchie's way to give him the narrowest margin of victory in Maryland history. Out of nearly 225,000 votes, Ritchie won with a mere 165 votes to spare, defeating Republican challenger Harry W. Nice 112,240 to 112,075. Across the state, however, Republicans gained control of the legislature, and succeeded in electing Republicans to both Mayor of Baltimore and Attorney General.

First term[edit]

Ritchie proved one of the last strong upholders of states' rights, gaining national prominence in 1922 with his stand against President Harding during the Western Maryland coal strike, and his strenuous opposition to the Volstead Act. His legislative program was in three main areas: state government reorganization, increased representation for Baltimore City, and reduction in the number of elections. The first governor of Maryland reelected since the Civil War, Ritchie loomed as a serious contender for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1924 until the compromise on John W. Davis. Ritchie worked hard for the ticket, and at home achieved reforms in mental health, shellfish conservation, and law enforcement while continuing to fight federal encroachments on state prerogatives.[2]

During Ritchie's first term, he worked to improve the public education system by establishing standards for the counties and by distributing wealth from the richer to the poorer counties. His actions were successful, and the Maryland educational system emerged as one of the best in the nation. Ritchie also invested considerable funds in expanding and improving the highways of the state, resulting in Maryland emerging as having one of the best highway systems in the country.

Ritchie was a strong opponent of the Eighteenth Amendment, which established prohibition, and was a staunch advocate of states' rights. He also gained national attention for his refusal to cooperate with the administrations of Presidents Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge. During a miner's strike in 1922, Ritchie refused a request from Harding to break up the strike by force, instead choosing a diplomatic alternative. The situation was peacefully defused.

Second term[edit]

For the first time in state history, Ritchie was nominated for a second term as Governor in 1923. He was again unopposed in the primary, but during the general election faced Alexander Armstrong, his successor as Attorney General. In a campaign which focused on his accomplishments as Governor and defiance of the Eighteenth Amendment, Ritchie easily defeated Armstrong by a plurality of 43,000 votes. His second term began on January 9, 1924, but because of an election law that changed the date of election that passed during Ritchie's first term, his second term only lasted three years.

Third term[edit]

Ritchie had announced early on his intentions to seek a third term as Governor, but, unlike in 1919 and 1923, he faced opposition in the primary elections of 1926. Ritchie's old rival, William Milnes Maloy, whom Ritchie had defeated in 1915 for nomination to Attorney General, again chose to challenge Ritchie for the Democratic nomination. Ritchie was easily nominated, having defeated Maloy by 81,500 votes. During the general election, Ritchie was challenged by Republican Addison Mullikin, who made issue of the Conowingo Dam construction project which he felt Ritchie had handled poorly. Nevertheless, Ritchie won the election by over 60,000 votes and won Baltimore City and 14 of 23 counties in the state. He was sworn in for his third term on January 12, 1927.

During his third term, Ritchie further worked with the state transportation system, calling for the construction of new highways and bridges, and for the improvement of the railways. Ritchie also pursued one of the earliest programs of conservation of the Chesapeake Bay, enacting strict game and fishing legislation. A corruption scandal emerged towards the end of Ritchie's third term involving employees of the State Roads Commission who were accused of embezzling $376,000. After a long investigation, and after Ritchie established a committee to investigate the allegations, those responsible were arrested. The Governor and the State Roads Commission were absolved from blame.

Fourth term[edit]

Ritchie was nominated for a fourth term in September 1930. State Senator David McIntosh of Baltimore County had initially announced his candidacy for governor, but withdrew upon Ritchie's announcement that he would seek renomination. Ritchie secured renomination easily, and faced William Broening, the Republican Mayor of Baltimore, during the general election. Ritchie won re-election by one of the largest majorities up to that time, having won by a plurality of 66,770 votes.

By early 1931 unemployment stood at 19.2%. Governor Albert C. Ritchie was a stalwart opponent of federal intervention in local affairs, and continued to urge programs sponsored by the business community itself. Social welfare agencies based on state support expanded services as much as possible, but beyond pushing ahead with all feasible public works projects the state did little. Baltimore established a Commission on Employment Stabilization but found work for only one-fifth of the job-seekers. Baltimore relief agencies were soon overwhelmed and the election of Mayor Howard W. Jackson, although bringing about municipal loans to the Citizens' Emergency Relief Committee, showed that local aid was simply inadequate. Ritchie agreed to issue state bonds to aid Baltimore, but would not borrow from President Herbert Hoover's new Reconstruction Finance Corporation until mid-1933, and his luxury tax program met stiff opposition from county representatives opposed to new tobacco taxes. Originally planned for $8 million, the Baltimore bond issue had to be $12 million as the state economy floundered. Only reluctantly was federal assistance finally accepted.[3]

Ritchie had established a national reputation during the convention of 1924 and was admired by the conservative wing of the Democratic party as a "wet" (in favor of repealing Prohibition) who appealed to the urban vote. At the 1932 Democratic National Convention he was convinced that Roosevelt would not get the necessary two-thirds majority to win the nomination. Ritchie was well received, but Roosevelt was nominated on the fourth ballot. Ritchie and several others including Governor George Dern were considered for the vice presidential nomination, which ultimately went to John Nance Garner.[4]

Throughout his 15 years as Governor, Ritchie called the legislature into special session several times, including once in 1920 to vote on women's suffrage in Maryland, and again in 1933 to ratify the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1933. Ritchie tried, but failed to achieve nomination as President during the election of 1932, and declined an offer by Franklin D. Roosevelt to be his running mate.

Defeated for fifth term[edit]

Ritchie's popularity as governor reached its peak during the early years of his fourth term, but gradually began to wane because of growing jealously within the party as a result of his long tenure as Governor, and because of a lynching that had occurred on the Maryland Eastern Shore. Although Ritchie's model, business-like government had thoroughly modernized Maryland, he had forged a Democratic party organization which his opponents attacked as a "machine." In 1934 Ritchie was seeking his fifth term and "Ritchie forever" seemed a real possibility. However, Dr. Charles Conley cut heavily into the Ritchie vote in the Democratic primary, and Republican opponent Harry W. Nice attacked the governor's relief efforts and promised to be "more new Dealish" than the conservative Ritchie. While a Ritchie victory was widely predicted, when Nice took all but three counties the postmortems agreed that the governor's longevity "and the cry of 'too long'" was the fundamental explanation, but the opposition of Baltimore blacks and labor also seemed significant. In the general election, Nice defeated Ritchie 253,813 to 247,644.[5]

He was also a member of Civitan International.[6]

Death[edit]

After his defeat, Ritchie returned to his law practice in Baltimore. On February 24, 1936, Ritchie died suddenly and unexpectedly of what was determined to be a cerebral hemorrhage. After a private funeral, Ritchie's body was placed on public display for several days and was viewed by thousands of mourners. He was interred at Greenmount Cemetery, where he was buried next to his father and mother.

Election history[edit]

Year Office Subject Party Votes Pct Opponent Party Votes Pct
1919 Governor Albert Cabell Ritchie Democrat 112,240 50.04% Harry Nice Republican 112,075 49.96%
1923 Governor Albert Cabell Ritchie Democrat 177,871 56.41% Alexander Armstrong Republican 137,471 43.59%
1926 Governor Albert Cabell Ritchie Democrat 207,435 58.34% Addison Mullikin Republican 148,145 41.66%
1930 Governor Albert Cabell Ritchie Democrat 283,639 56.67% William Broening Republican 216,864 43.33%
1934 Governor Albert Cabell Ritchie Democrat 247,664 49.39% Harry Nice Republican 253,813 50.61%

Dedications[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ostermeier, Eric (April 10, 2013). "The Top 50 Longest-Serving Governors of All Time". Smart Politics. 
  2. ^ Chepaitis, "Albert C. Ritchie in Power: 1920-1927"
  3. ^ Charles M. Kimberly, "The Depression in Maryland: the Failure of Voluntaryism," Maryland Historical Magazine 1975 70(2): 189-202,
  4. ^ James Levin, "Governor Albert C. Ritchie and the Democratic Convention of 1932," Maryland Historical Magazine 1972 67(3): 278-293
  5. ^ Dorothy Brown, "The Election of 1934: the 'New Deal' in Maryland"
  6. ^ Leonhart, James Chancellor (1962). The Fabulous Octogenarian. Baltimore Maryland: Redwood House, Inc. p. 277. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Brown, Dorothy. "The Election of 1934: the 'New Deal' in Maryland," Maryland Historical Magazine 1973 68(4): 405-421
  • Chepaitis, Joseph B. "Albert C. Ritchie in Power: 1920-1927". Maryland Historical Magazine 1973 68(4): 383-404
  • Jack Cosgrove, “Political Tricks Won Many Elections In Days of ‘Frank’ Kelly,” Baltimore American, December 30, 1951.
  • Walsh, Richard and Fox, William Lloyn. Maryland: A History 1632-1974. Baltimore, Maryland: Maryland Historical Society, 1974.
  • Frank F. White, Jr., The Governors of Maryland 1777-1970. Annapolis: The Hall of Records Commission, 1970, 257-263.
  • Congressional Quarterly Voting and Elections Collection. [1]

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Edgar Allan Poe
Attorney General of Maryland
1915 – 1919
Succeeded by
Ogle Marbury
Political offices
Preceded by
Emerson C. Harrington
Governor of Maryland
1920 – 1935
Succeeded by
Harry C. Nice