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Ralph F Gates

Location: Whitley County Courthouse, Columbia City, (Whitley County, Indiana) 46725

Installed 2013 Indiana Historical Bureau, Senator Jim Banks, Representative Kathy Heuer, Vincent and Patricia Turner, Jonathan and Soultana Myers, and Old Settlers Days Association

ID#: 92.2013.1


Side One:

Columbia City attorney and banker, Gates (1893-1978) was elected State Commander of American Legion, 1931. In 1944, he led Republican Party to control of state offices and Indiana General Assembly. As Governor (1945-1949), he created state Department of Veterans’ Affairs to aid Hoosier men and women returning from WWII in obtaining employment, education, and housing.

Side Two:

Amid national post-war labor strikes in coal, steel, and railroads, Gates oversaw transition of Indiana economy from war to peace. His administration streamlined Indiana government; created agencies to promote commerce, aviation, and flood control; worked to obtain funds for better roads and highways, higher salaries for teachers, and new state health facilities.

Annotated Text

Side One:

Columbia City attorney and banker, Gates (1893-1978) was elected State Commander of American Legion, 1931.[1] In 1944, he led Republican Party to control of state offices and Indiana General Assembly.[2] As Governor (1945-1949),[3] he created state Department of Veterans’ Affairs to aid Hoosier men and women returning from WWII in obtaining employment, education, and housing.[4]

Side Two:

Amid national post-war labor strikes in coal, steel, and railroads,[5] Gates oversaw transition of Indiana economy from war to peace.[6] His administration streamlined Indiana government; [7] created agencies to promote commerce,[8] aviation,[9] and flood control;[10] worked to obtain funds for better roads and highways, [11] higher salaries for teachers,[12] and new state health facilities.[13]

Note: Historian James H. Madison succinctly summarizes the four years leading up to the January 1945 inauguration of Ralph Gates: “the war changed everything.” (James H. Madison, Indiana Through Tradition and Change . . . 1920-1945 (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1982), 370.) The economic distress of the Depression years, 1930s, was followed by massive mobilization of U.S. industries to support the nation’s entry into World War II, 1941-1945. Government officials, businessmen, and labor union members expressed concerns about the post-WWII economy and hoped to avoid a repeat of the economic turmoil after World War I. The historical research for this marker focuses on the actions of Governor Gates and the various branches and offices of state government in the critical transition from war to peace. It is beyond the scope of this project to consider in-depth each of the issues highlighted by the text of this marker.

[1] Ralph F. Gates, U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1918 accessed; Application for Post of The American Legion, Columbia City, Indiana, September 29, 1919, copy; “Legion Decides to Make Home at Indianapolis,” Indianapolis Star, Extra, November 12, 1919; Post Application for Permanent Charter, Ray P. Harrison Post #98, Columbia City, Indiana, September 15, 1920, copy; “Ralph E. [F] Gates is New Legion Chief,” Indianapolis News, August 25, 1931, p. 1; “New G.O.P. Chairman Inherits Flair for Politics and Law from Father,” Indianapolis Star, July 26, 1941, p. 12, c. 5; “Indiana’s G.O.P. Nominee for Governor,” Indianapolis News, June 2, 1944, p. 1, c. 3; Ralph F. Gates, “Membership of the Indiana State Bar Association,” Indiana Law Journal 20:3, Article 5 (April 1, 1945): 269, accessed; “Legion Head  Says Indianapolis Will Always Be National Headquarters,” Indianapolis News, December 10, 1945; “Gates Will Resume Law Practice,” Indianapolis News, November 9, 1948, pt. 1, p. 1, c. 7; “Ralph F. Gates Dies; Former Governor,” Columbia City [Ind.] Post, July 29, 1978, p. 1; “Ex-Gov. Ralph Gates Dies in Columbia City,” Indianapolis Star, July 29, 1978, p. 1; Edward Ziegner, “An Appreciation of Ralph Gates,” Indianapolis News, July 31, 1978, 17; Ralph Gates, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010, accessed See also: Ralph F. Gates Oral History, February 3, 1971, transcript, Manuscripts and Rare Books Collection, Indiana State Library.

Gates was born in Columbia City, Indiana, February 24, 1893. After graduation from University of Michigan law school in 1917, he returned to Columbia City. He served in the U.S. Navy during WWI (1917-1919) and returned home to begin his legal and political career. Gates served the Republican Party on local, state, and national committees; he was very active in the American Legion, as a founding member of the Columbia City Post No. 98, and as State Commander, 1931-1932. (In 1919, the national headquarters of the American Legion was located in Indianapolis. In 1945, the Indiana General Assembly appropriated $2.5 million for new Legion buildings on the Indiana War Memorial Plaza.) At the end of his term as governor, Ralph Gates returned to Columbia City to practice law and rejoin his brothers in the family banking, insurance, and farming interests. He died July 28, 1978.

[2] “New G.O.P. Chairman Inherits Flair for Politics and Law from Father,” Indianapolis Star, July 26, 1941, p. 12, c. 5; “Gates Governor Boom Launched,” Indianapolis Star, November 8, 1943, p. 1; “Platform Asks Return of Rights,” Indianapolis News, June 2, 1944, p. 1, c. 2; “Extra! . . .Gates Acceptance Speech,” Indianapolis News, June 2, 1944, p. 1, c. 1; “G.O.P. Picks Lyons, Capehart, Gates,” Indianapolis Star, June 3, 1944; “Gates Promises Spirited Campaign,” Indianapolis Star, June 4, 1944, p. 3, c. 6; Indiana Republican State Platform, 1944 (Indianapolis, Indiana Republican State Committee: 1944), 1, 15; “Rural Vote Gives GOP Complete State Control,” Indianapolis News, November 9, 1944, p. 1; “Gates Bases Good Governor Goal On Common Sense Administration,” Indianapolis Star, December 7, 1944; “Capehart Starts Tomorrow for Capitol Hill; Gates Inaugural Prepared In Statehouse,” Indianapolis Star, December 31, 1944; ; James H. Madison, Indiana Through Tradition and Change (Indianapolis, Ind.: 1982), 76, 84, 104-08, 130-31, 396-404; Justin E. Walsh, The Centennial History of the Indiana General Assembly, 1816-1978 (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Bureau, 1987), 482-84.

Ralph Gates was the first Republican governor elected in Indiana since Harry G. Leslie in 1928. During the Depression years and throughout the course of WWII, the Democratic Party controlled government at both state and national levels. In 1933, democratic Governor Paul V. McNutt convinced the Indiana General Assembly to reorganize Indiana state government to give the governor more power. At roughly the same time, democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt inserted the federal government presence in state and local affairs throughout the country via the New Deal relief programs. According to historian James H. Madison, these events significantly changed the nature of welfare and public relief and the relationships of all levels of government to such programs.

By 1938, dissension in both Indiana political parties provided an opportunity for a Republican revival. Invigorated by Homer Capehart’s Cornfield Conference in August, 1938, the Indiana Republican Party regained strength; the state elections, 1940, put Republicans in control of the Indiana General Assembly and the State House, except for democratic Governor Henry Schricker.

In 1941, Indiana Republicans elected Ralph Gates chairman of the state Republican Party. The July 26, 1941 Indianapolis Star described Gates as “one of the Hoosier state’s long-time party leaders and a veteran member of the G.O.P. State committee.” After the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. declared war on Japan and the second World War became the most important issue. The U.S. government became even more involved in state affairs determining their wartime activities through programs such as the U.S. War Production Board, War Labor Board, War Manpower Commission, Office of Price Administration and many others.

In June 1944, Ralph Gates was chosen to be the Republican nominee for Indiana governor. In accepting the nomination, Gates described the upcoming campaign: “This will be a great movement, a movement in which all persons alike may join to restore the government to the people and to redeem the state of Indiana and the nation from the New Deal.”

Gates won the governor’s race. “A tidal wave of rural votes . . . returned the republican party to complete control of the state administration. . . .”

[3] “Gates Sworn in as 36th Indiana Chief Executive,” Indianapolis News, January 8, 1945, p. 1; “Text of Gates Message at Induction Ceremony,” Indianapolis News, January 8, 1945, p. 4; Ralph F. Gates, “Inaugural Address and Legislative Message. . . to The Eighty-Fourth Session, Indiana General Assembly,” January 9, 1945, Clipping File, Indiana State Library; “Governor’s Special Message to the Indiana General Assembly Scheduled for Delivery February 13, 1945,” Clipping File, Indiana State Library; “Indiana First State to Enact Fair Play Law,” Indianapolis Recorder, March 17, 1945, 1, 5; Laws of Indiana, 1947, 157-60; Indiana Year Book 1947, 392; Edward Ziegner, “Battle of Costs Marks Gates Term,” Indianapolis News, December 29, 1948, pt. 1, p. 1, c. 7; Edward Ziegner, “Health, Flood Aid Credited to Gates,” Indianapolis News, December 30, 1948, pt. 1, p. 10, c. 1; Edward Ziegner, “Gates Rates Title of ‘Working Governor’,” Indianapolis News, December 31, 1948, p. 11, c. 7; Edward H. Ziegner, “Legislators Hear Gates Farewell,” Indianapolis News, January 6, 1949, p. 1, c. 7; . Robert Bloem, “Gates Leaves Statehouse with Record of Progress,” Indianapolis Times, January 9, 1949; Madison, Indiana Through Tradition and Change, 370-407.

In his January 8, 1945 inaugural address, Gates pledged to continue the State’s commitment to “do its full share toward the defeat of our enemies and the winning of victory and peace for America….” Gates believed that an equally difficult challenge would be “the problem of the rehabilitation of our 300,000 or more members of the armed forces and the conversion of our industries and agriculture to peace time requirements.”

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, U.S. military forces located more than 2 dozen camps, training centers, and other installations in Indiana. Indiana factories converted production lines from automobile parts and home appliances to airplanes, amphibious naval vessels, shell casings, ammunition, parachute flares, and numerous additional materiel for war.

Hoosiers on the home front endured substantial disruptions. Food, gasoline, and tires were rationed; prices were raised. As Hoosier men and women joined the military, workers were needed to fill their jobs and to meet increasing production quotas. By 1943 some Indiana companies hired African Americans and women for the first time. By 1945, the war was coming to an end and state leaders began to plan for a return to a peace-time economy.

In his January 9, 1945 message to the Indiana General Assembly, Gates described his election as a mandate for free enterprise. He promised “to strive for a minimum of governmental regulation and control.” Gates’ main goal was to successfully lead Indiana’s transition from war to peace.

As the war industries closed shop, women and black workers were forced out of jobs much more often than white workers. Governor Gates signed the Fair Employment Practices Act passed by the Indiana General Assembly on March 10, 1945. In early 1946, the Fair Employment Practice Commission was set up “to discourage, the practice, when and where found, of denying employment by discriminating against employees on account of race, creed, color, national origin or ancestry.” The Indianapolis Recorder noted that the Indiana law, one of the first in the nation, was “advisory” whereas the recently passed New York State fair employment law had “real teeth.”

At the close of Gate’s term, journalists, politicians, and others offered both praise and criticism for his leadership. He garnered praise for significant upgrading of state public and mental health programs and facilities; for establishing the State Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and the state’s first aviation and flood control commissions; and for creation of the state Department of Commerce and Public Relations to attract new industry to Indiana.

Gates was criticized for his inability to obtain sufficient funding for construction and repair of Indiana’s roads and highways, and his failure to meet local governments’ demands for increased funding from state revenues.

Robert Bloem, Indianapolis Times, described Gates with “an unfailing sense of humor combined with an energetic approach to every problem that was laid before him. . . . Citizen Gates will continue to rate as one of Indiana’s ablest politicians.”

[4] Laws of Indiana, 1945, 1:257-63; “Governors Hear Indiana 11-Point Postwar Plan,” Indianapolis News, July 2, 1945; “Gates Is Pleased With Results of First Year,” Indianapolis News, January 1, 1946; “Survey of Veterans’ Housing Needs Over County,” Valparaiso Vidette-Messenger, January 11, 1946; “Gates Promises State Help in Housing Crisis,” Hammond Times, January 18, 1946; “Benefits Available To Veterans Summarized,” Indianapolis Star, March 17, 1946, p. 21; “Senate Demanding Long Range Plans; Rent Action Urged,” Indianapolis Star, July 2, 1946; “Workers Held Postwar Loser,” Indianapolis Star, July 5, 1946; Indiana Year Book, 1946, xiv, 222, 427-30; “Gates Will Propose Three-Cent ‘Fag’ Tax,” Kokomo Tribune, January 8, 1947; “Number of Men Served by Veterans Officer Increases,” Tipton Tribune, January 8, 1947; “Labor Bills Upset Program,” Tipton Tribune, January 18, 1947; “List of Jobless Vets Cut Half,” Indianapolis Star, April 23, 1947; “Rent Board To Be Named For This Area,” Logansport Pharos-Tribune, July 8, 1947; “Rent Advisory board for Area Picks Chairman,” Kokomo Tribune, August 21, 1947; Indiana Year Book, 1947, xiii, 129-138, 139;  “Gates Scores Attitude of Rent Agency,” Valparaiso Vidette-Messenger, February 5, 1948; “Vets, Dependents Get $130,000,000,” Indianapolis News, March 2, 1948, 4; “Soldiers’ Bonus Referendum This Year,” Logansport Pharos Tribune, March 5, 1948; Indiana Year Book 1948, xiii-xiv, 724-30, 1306-07; “Soldier Bonus Urged By Governor Gates,” Logansport Pharos Tribune, January 6, 1949; “Lists Procedure In Applying For State Vet Bonus,” Kokomo Tribune, June 6, 1949, 5; “State Vet Bonus Application Forms Expected Here Monday,” Kokomo Tribune, July 7, 1949; Indiana Year Book 1949, 1173-75..

On January 9, 1945, Governor Ralph F. Gates proposed the creation of: “a small department of state government charged primarily with the duty of coordinating and correlating those various local, state and national services for veterans but designed especially to assist local communities to meet those problems which fundamentally shall be theirs.” The Indiana Veterans’ Affairs Law, enacted March 3, 1945, created a state-level Department of Veterans’ Affairs, a four-member Commission, and a salaried Director with the authority to act as agent for any veteran in obtaining “the benefits from all . . . enactments of the Congress of the United States pertaining to veterans’ affairs. . . .”

The benefits provided to veterans by the federal Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 (also known as the GI Bill) included: “loans for homes, farms, and business; reemployment aid, readjustment allowances; disability compensation; and education.” In accord with Gates’ strong belief in the efficacy of local government, the Indiana Veterans’ Affairs Department established district and branch veterans’ offices throughout the state to work with the returning Hoosier soldiers.

Statistics released by the Department in 1948 showed that: 385,000 Hoosier men and women had been inducted into military service over the course of the war; 20,000 men and women were still in service; 355,000 had been discharged; 10,000 had been killed or died in service.

One important task of the department was to provide information about the educational benefits available to returning veterans at Indiana colleges and universities and through apprenticeships and on-the-job training at 7,500 state-approved manufacturing, commercial, and business entities. Soon after the end of the war, a study (Indiana Economic Council) also revealed “a pressing need for 24,000 dwelling units” for veterans and their families. Working with the National Housing Agency, the state established a program to obtain “emergency war housing units” and promoted the program to “every mayor in the state.” President Harry Truman established Federal support for solutions to the housing crisis.

In 1947, the Indiana General Assembly, “greatly increased” funds to state colleges and universities where returning veterans had more than doubled the student populations. By the end of June 1947, over seventy-five local veterans’ affairs centers had been established to serve Hoosiers discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces. Of the discharged soldiers, 272,902 were employed full time; 67,295 attended school or received job training. According to the Indianapolis News, by this time, Hoosier veterans and their families had received $130,000,000 in benefits; $44,000,000 of this was used for education.

At the 1947 session of the Indiana General Assembly, legislators provided for a public referendum in November 1948 to determine if the State should give a bonus to Hoosier veterans. Voters overwhelmingly agreed to give a bonus to veterans. Governor Gates, in his farewell speech urged the passage of Bonus law and the Indiana General Assembly on March 8, 1949 passed the Indiana Bonus Law to be administered by the State Veterans’ Affairs agency. Though applications would be ready in July 1949, veterans would not receive any money until the State had collected approximately $105,000, 000 or more. Funding from a surtax on gross incomes of all Hoosiers, including veterans, was expected to take five to seven years.

5 Laws of Indiana, 1945, 2:1559-60; “Labor, Industry Heads Meet Here,” Indianapolis Star, May 17, 1945, 1; Indiana Year Book, 1945, 333-34; “Hoosier Leaders Chart Industrial Peace For Reconversion Period,” Indianapolis Star, August 18, 1945, 1; “Sudden Action Follows Telegram From Governor,” Indianapolis Star, September 30, 1945, 1; “Calumet Strikers Promise Truman Blockade At End,” Indianapolis Star, October 1, 1945, 1; “Gates and Dewey on Strikes,” Indianapolis Times, October 2, 1945, 12; “Coal, Oil Strikes Spread,” Indianapolis Star, October 2, 1945, 1;  “Navy Ordered Into Oil Plants, Indianapolis Star, October 5, 1945; “115,000 Idle in Hoosier Plants,” Indianapolis News, January 22, 1946, 8; “Plant Shutdowns Forecast Here,” Indianapolis News, May 24, 1946; “Auto and Truck Industries Face Total Shutdown,” Indianapolis News, May 25, 1946; Indiana Year Book, 1946, 243; “Nationwide Mine Strike Feared as Shutdowns Grow,” Tipton Daily Tribune, November 2, 1946, 1, accessed; “State Feels Coal Noose Draw Tight,” Indianapolis Star, December 5, 1946; “Gates Proposes Plan To End State Tie-Up,” Indianapolis Star, December 6, 1946; “4th EXTRA,” Indianapolis News, December 7, 1946, 1; “Indiana Coal Bans Ease As Miners’ Walkout Ends,” Indianapolis Star, December 8, 1946; “Gates Orders 1st Use of Utility Strike Act,” Indianapolis Star, August 10, 1947; Indiana Year Book, 1947, xii-xiii, 389; “26 Daily Runs Here May Be Affected,” Indianapolis News, March 18, 1948, 1; “Arbitration to Bar Transit Tieup Ordered,” Indianapolis News, May 22, 1948; Indiana Year Book, 1948, xiii, 425, 429;  “Evansville Unionists Defy State authority,” Kokomo Tribune, August 31, 1948; “Phone Unions Call On Law In Wage Case,” Logansport Pharos-Tribune, September 30, 1948; Hugh M. Ayer, “Hoosier Labor in the Second World War,” Indiana Magazine of History, 59 (June 1963): 95-120 accessed at Scholarworks; Madison, Indiana Through Tradition and Change, 245-62; James B. Atleson, Labor and the Wartime State (Chicago, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1998), 203-217.

In Indiana, as elsewhere in the U.S., the war in Europe helped rebuild the state’s manufacturing economy. U.S. entry into the World War in 1941 brought enormous demands for production of war materials; from 1939-1942, manufacturing employment in Indiana increased forty-nine percent. During this critical period, government, business, and organized labor agreed to a no-strike pledge (not entirely successful); the labor unions gained new members from a fast- growing pool of laborers; and President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the federal government imposed nationwide wage and price freezes.

In March 1945, Gates and the Indiana General Assembly “recreated” a Division of Labor within the Indiana Department of Labor. A major function of the Division was to promote voluntary arbitration of labor disputes. The Indiana State Chamber of Commerce called labor and industrial leaders together in Indianapolis, May 16, 1945, to promote discussions about avoiding labor conflicts during the post-war reconversion to peace-time industry. On August 27, 1945, Indiana Department of Labor officials brought labor and business interests together again at South Bend to sign an agreement for “amicable negotiations in labor relations.”

And yet, in September 1945, the United Oil Workers Union struck seven refineries in Northwest Indiana and across the country. By January 22, 1946, the Indianapolis News reported 115,000 Indiana workers in 75 industrial factories on strike including steel and automobile workers, electrical, metal, and meatpacking workers.  By May 1946, national strikes involving railroad operators and coal miners brought predictions of “drastic curtailment of all industry and elimination of just about all non-essential activities from the scene here [Indianapolis] in a matter of days.” Though the war was over, both state and national governments worked to ease the impact of strikes on citizens and on the economy.

In November of 1946, another nationwide coal strike threatened to close schools and businesses and leave homes and hospitals without heat. Governor Gates declared that “Indiana industry will be in a state of collapse within ten days if the coal strike isn’t settled.” Gates’ proposal to settle the dispute in Indiana without the Federal government was not accepted. And, abruptly on December 7, John L. Lewis, head of the United Mine Workers, called off the strike and directed miners to go back to work until March 31, 1947.

In 1947, Indiana General Assembly and the U.S. Congress passed legislation to force arbitration in industries critical to the health and safety of all Americans. Governor Gates invoked the public utility compulsory arbitration law 8 times between 1947 enactment and the end of his term. In June 1947, U.S. Congress passed the federal Taft-Hartley Act over Truman’s veto. Strikes continued in Indiana and across the country throughout the remainder of Gates’ term. The Indiana Division of Labor reported the following statistics during Gates’ tenure.

The Division reported the following statistics during Gates’ term as Governor.

IN Labor Division arbitration activities

Fiscal year ending June 30, 1946

Fiscal year ending June 30, 1947

Fiscal year ending June 30, 1948









Impending strikes




Discrimination cases




Workers affected




Indiana Year Book, 1946, 243; Indiana Year Book, 1947, xii-xiii, 389; Indiana Year Book, 1948, 425, 429.

[6] “War Controls Should Be Eased Gradually. . . ,” Valparaiso Vidette-Messenger, January 8, 1945; Laws of Indiana, 1945, 2:1737, 1753-55; “New Beer Tax Begins Today,” Indianapolis Star, May 1, 1945; Indiana Yearbook, 1945, 152-53, 788-89; “Governors Hear Indiana 11-Point Postwar Plan,” Indianapolis News, July 2, 1945; Sandor S. Klein, “Boom Nears, But So Far Is Only a Trickle,” Indianapolis Times, October 30, 1945, p. 1; “Gates is Pleased With Results of First Year, Indianapolis News, January 1, 1946; “Viewpoints,” Valparaiso Vidette-Messenger, January 8, 1946; “January Job Openings Here Down to 195,” Kokomo Tribune, February 7, 1946; Indiana Year Book, 1946, 221-24, 822-23; “Employment Gain Of 18,305 Seen For July,” Indianapolis Star, July 5, 1946, p. 19; Ralph F. Gates, 1947 Budget Message to the Indiana General Assembly, February 10, 1947, 3 10; Laws of Indiana, 1947, 157-60, 829-31, 885-92; Indiana Year Book, 1947, iii, xii-xiii; ”Indiana Factory Employment Up,” Indianapolis News, September 15, 1947, pt. 2, p. 13; Indiana Year Book, 1948, xiii, 402-03, 421; “State Attracts 300 Industries, Indianapolis News, September 17, 1948, pt. 2; Madison, Indiana Through Tradition and Change, 39.

Gates’ plans for Indiana’s post-war recovery began with the 1945 session of the Indiana General Assembly. The Indiana Economic Council, established in 1943, had surveyed Indiana’s needs for post-war public construction and repair; the Council made recommendations to the Governor and the 84th Indiana General Assembly for addressing these needs and issues in agriculture, aviation, conservation, education, health, and transportation.                Many were especially concerned with avoiding an economic depression like the 1920-1921 turmoil after WWI. The impending conversion of the state’s war-time industry to peace-time economy and the influx of more than 300,000 returning veterans would be especially challenging.

Gates’ ambitious recovery plan gained national attention at his first conference of governors, July 2, 1945, when he addressed the audience on “State-Local Relations” and called for post-war planning as “a matter of home rule.” The July 2, 1945 Indianapolis News reported Gates plans to include over $500 million of improvement programs which he felt could “be financed without undue burden on the taxpayer.” He summed up his program: 1. Flood control and water conservation; 2. Promotion and development of aviation; 3. Revision of Indiana’s tax laws; 4. Public employees’ retirement plan; 5. Postwar construction fund with revenue from liquor tax; 6. Aid for veterans; 7. Loans to cities and towns for public works programs; 8. Purchase and reforestation of unproductive lands to aid local communities; 9. Comprehensive program to improve health conditions; 10. Expand unemployment compensation; 11. Promote new industries and new uses for agricultural products.

To finance the conversion and transition, Gates promoted and the 84th Indiana General Assembly agreed to increase taxes on alcoholic beverages; the additional revenue was directed to a “Post War Construction Fund for benefit of the state’s penal, benevolent, charitable and educational institutions.” The Indiana General Assembly also directed the Economic Council to coordinate state and federal loan programs “to cover the cost of preparing plans and specifications for public works.”

After the Japanese surrender, August 1945, most of the factories producing war materials closed. “Factory production workers in Indiana dropped from a war-time peak of 549,448 until in December 1945, the total was 335,306.” An October 1945 survey by journalist Sandor Klein, United Press, reported that conversion of America’s factories was almost complete. He noted, however, that “the production of those factories had not yet reached the public. Post-war manufacturing was hampered by an insufficient workforce, demands by labor for higher wages, and the U.S. government’s continuation of wartime price controls.”

In the early months of 1946, reports on Indiana’s reconversion varied. On January 8, 1946, the Valparaiso Vidette-Messenger, applauded the accomplishment: “Channeling Hoosier labor into peacetime jobs has been an accomplishment which supplies ample laurels both for federal and state agencies. . . . The degree to which reconversion has been accomplished in this state scarcely would have been possible if the federal agency had not had such sincere support.” Yet, in February 1946, the Kokomo Tribune reported: “Seasonal employment trends aggravated by reconversion and the nationwide effect of strikes dropped the available jobs in Kokomo to a new four-year low.”

In his 1947 Budget Message to the 85th Indiana General Assembly, Gates called for a cigarette tax to provide more revenue for education. The Indiana Year Book, 1947, described the “the start of badly needed institutional repair and expansion program made necessary because of the long period of neglect during World War II.”

In June 1948, the State reported that its industrial production for the fiscal year from July 1947-June 1948 was unprecedented. In spite of continued shortages of raw materials and labor issues, employment and payrolls increased in early 1948 which contributed to a 20.4% increase in State tax collections and the highest recorded number of tax payers ever. Lieutenant Governor Richard T. James announced in September that the state’s new Department of Commerce and Public Relations had helped draw more than 300 new industries employing over 30,000 workers to Indiana.

[7] “Legislative Calendar,” Indianapolis Star, 7;  Laws of Indiana, 1945, 2:1529-31, 1589, 1705; Indiana Year Book, 1945, 146-47, 316-17, 926-27; “Gates Is Pleased With Results of First Year,” Indianapolis News, January 1, 1946; “Viewpoints,” Valparaiso Vidette-Messenger, April 22, 1946; Indiana Year Book, 1946, 187-90, 227-29, 259, 703-07, 822; Wayne Guthrie, “Governor Outlines Convention Changes,” Indianapolis News, January 10, 1947; Ralph Gates, 1947 Budget Message to Indiana General Assembly, February 10, 1947, 3; “Liquor Reform Bill Ready,” Tipton Daily Tribune, February 19, 1947; “Gates Receives Liquor Bill After House Oks Changes,” Tipton Daily Tribune, March 8, 1947; Indiana Year Book, 1947, xii- xv, 579, 587-88, 644-45, 949, 1092-95, 1150-51; “Counties May Get Revenues,” Valparaiso Vidette-Messenger, March 26, 1948; “State Distributes Cigarette Tax Fund,” Tipton Daily Tribune, May 27, 1948;  Indiana Year Book, 1948, xiv-xv, 860.

The transition period after WWII offered opportunities to improve the state’s financial practices; and the return of Republicans to complete control of the Executive and Legislative branches of Indiana government provided opportunities to reorganize state agencies, boards, and commissions.

In 1945, Gates’ administration and the Indiana General Assembly collaborated on legislation to:

  • Reorganize state education board and establish as the Indiana State Board of Education,
  • Enlarge the State Board of Health and reorganize its responsibilities,
  • Abolish the Department of Conservation, establish a new board, and reorganize duties and divisions,
  • Abolish the Alcoholic Beverage Division in the Office of Excise Administration and create the Alcoholic Beverage Commission,
  • Create a new Indiana Mental Health Council,
  • Establish a State Office Building Commission to plan for future needs of state government,
  • Created a permanent Legislative Reference Bureau to assist legislators in drafting new legislation,
  • ­Establish a Public Employee Retirement Fund,
  • Combine Central Purchasing Bureau, Division of State Farms, Penal Industrial Sales, and Distribution of War Surplus into a single Division of Procurement and Supply.

Before the 1947 Indiana General Assembly began its deliberations, Governor Gates called agency heads together and instructed them to prepare legislation that would streamline their work and provide better service to the public. Among the changes recommended and passed by the Indiana General Assembly was the creation of a Department of State Revenue which brought most Indiana tax collection under one agency. Revenue Department began to exercise it duties in 1948 fiscal year, collecting income, inheritance, and intangibles taxes as well as store licenses, inspection fees.

Gates also sought more oversight of state purchasing; the Indiana General Assembly responded with an act reorganizing the state’s financial procedures including: creation of a central purchasing department with responsibilities for “pre-auditing” all state expenditures, creation of a central inventory of all state-owned property, and consolidation of building and maintenance functions in the Division of Public Works and Supply.

At this same Session, the Alcoholic Beverage Commission law was amended to eliminate party politics from wholesale liquor distribution licensing. Collection of the new cigarette tax was added to the ABC’s duties. This additional revenue was designated for the Post-War Construction Fund too.

This is certainly not a comprehensive list of the reorganization of Indiana government during Gates’ term. Important pieces of Gates’ reconversion plan are addressed in the following footnotes.

[8] Laws of Indiana, 1945, 388-95; “Hoosier Leaders Chart Industrial Peace For Reconversion Period,” Indianapolis Star, August 18, 1945; “Indiana Asks To Be Seat Of U.N. Assembly,” Kokomo Tribune, October 18, 1945; “Hoosiers Plan Good-Will Flight to South America,” Valparaiso Vidette-Messenger, December 14, 1945; “Gates Is Pleased With Results of First Year,” Indianapolis News, January 1, 1946; “Indiana Trade Junket,” Valparaiso Vidette-Messenger, January 10, 1946; Indiana Year Book, 1946, 431-32; Indiana Year Book 1947, 148-49; Indiana Year Book, 1948, xiii, 691-93.

The Indiana Department of Commerce, Agriculture, Industry and Public Relations was created by law during the 1945 Session of the Indiana General Assembly. The law established an Advisory Council, listed the 17 duties for the director, and repealed a 1939 Act that had created a Division of State Publicity.

The Indiana Department of Commerce and Public Relations began its work June 15, 1945. Its objectives were: attract new industry to the state; stimulate more tourist-travel business in Indiana; educate Hoosiers to be boosters for Indiana. The department’s first major project, working with Governor Gates and the Indiana Labor Department, was to negotiate an agreement between Indiana labor unions and company management that would establish an arbitration process for resolving disputes without work stoppages. The so-called “Labor-Management Charter” was signed at South Bend, August 27, 1945.

At the close of 1945, in another major project, Governor Gates and the Commerce Department made an unsuccessful bid for Indiana to become the location of the “United Nations world peace capital.” In October 1945, Gates cabled an invitation to the UN Preparatory Commission, meeting in London. When the Commission showed some interest, Gates sent Lieutenant Governor Richard T. James, Director of the Department of Commerce, to London on December 4, 1945, “carrying with him 10 pounds of documented material.”

The Department began its first “industrial advertising campaign” in November 1945 with funds donated by 13 Indiana gas and electric companies. The ads ran in five major publications: Newsweek, Business Week, United States News, Chicago Journal of Commerce and the Wall Street Journal. By June 30, 1947, a survey conducted by the Department showed that 300 new industries employing close to 30,000 persons had been established in Indiana since August 1945.

The Department also published an Indiana map and brochures to encourage out-of-state tourist traffic; they produced radio shows that provided information to Hoosiers about the state’s traditions, government, and history. With only 6 months left in his term, June 30, 1948, Governor Gates reported that the Hoosier state had “enjoyed unprecedented industrial growth.”  At the same time, the Commerce Department reported (for the fiscal year, 1947-48) 741 enquiries from businesses and industry; they received approximately 25,000 requests for tourist information.

[9] Indiana Year Book, 1944, 296; Indiana Year Book, 1945, 152-53, 798-99; Laws of Indiana, 1945, 591-92, 1781-83; “Gates Is Pleased With Results of First Year,” Indianapolis News, January 1, 1946; “Plan demonstration of Standard Radar System at Indianapolis Airport,” Valparaiso Vidette-Messenger, July 12, 1946; Indiana Year Book, 1946, 210-23; Indiana Year Book, 1947, 936-43; Indiana Year Book, 1948, 849-53, 858-59.

On November 1, 1944, there were 54 civil airfields in Indiana. Expecting enormous growth in the various aviation industries, the Indiana Economic Council, in collaboration with the Federal Civil Aeronautics Board, worked to develop plans and policies to recommend to the Governor and the Indiana General Assembly in 1945. As a result, the General Assembly passed two bills, the first (Senate 114) provided “for the acquisition, construction, and operation of airports by municipalities.” The second bill (H. R. 211) created the Aeronautics Commission of Indiana.

In July 1945, the Aeronautics Commission of Indiana began its work. One year later, the Commission had adopted a five-point aviation program: develop a system of airports in Indiana; sponsor a complete air marking program; direct air and ground safety program; promote aeronautical educational programs; develop program to promote growth of private and commercial aviation. The commission reported 175 existing civil airfields and 30 airfields under construction as of June 30, 1946.

U.S. Congress promoted more rapid growth of city and town airports when it passed the “Federal Airport Act” in May 1946 which provided matching funds for airport projects. The Indiana Aeronautics Commission authorized and approved municipal airport projects requesting federal funds. By June 30, 1947, the Aeronautics Commission had approved applications for ten new municipal airports. In addition, the Commission approved plans for six airport development projects with federal funds in St. Joseph County, Warsaw, Fort Wayne, Starke County, Terre Haute, and Kokomo.

The Commission also promoted the growth of commercial airline traffic in Indiana. At the end of 1947, there were 6 commercial airlines serving 7 Indiana communities.

[10] “Ohio’s Flood Waters Spread Over Indiana Lowlands Towns, Country,” Kokomo Tribune, March 7, 1945; “Disease Feared in Flood State Zone,” Greensburg Daily News, March 9, 1945; Laws of Indiana, 1945, 1480-89; Indiana Year Book, 1945, 587-88, 607; “Gates Is Pleased With Results of First Year,” Indianapolis News, January 1, 1946; “Army OKs Flood Fund,” Hammond Times, January 24, 1946; Indiana Year Book, 1946, 239-42, 703-07; “Indiana Group Seeks Flood Control Funds,” Kokomo Tribune, June 10, 1947; “Water Control In Muscatatuck Area Studied,” Greensburg Daily News, November 25, 1947; Indiana Year Book 1947, 696-99, 1081-86; “Gates Back From Convention. Meets Budget Committee,” Kokomo Tribune, June 29, 1948; “Governors of 7 States Sign Compact,” Kokomo Tribune, June 30, 1948; “Big Flood Job Starts,” Logansport Press, July 3, 1948; “Nine States Have Signed…,” Logansport Press, July 10, 1948; “57 Billion River Program Blueprinted For Nation,” Indianapolis Star, December 26, 1948; Edward Ziegner, “Health, Flood Aid Credited to Gates,” Indianapolis News, December 30, 1948, pt. 1, 10; Indiana Year Book, 1948, xiv, 711, 813-14.

On March 2, 1945, only two months into his term as Governor, Gates mobilized the Indiana State Guard to assist in evacuating Hoosier residents in cities and towns along the Ohio River during what was described as “the second largest flood of the Ohio River in the history of the State, only exceeded by that of 1937.” Catastrophic flooding occurred in the entire Ohio and Mississippi valleys in 1913 and 1937.

On March 7, 1945 the Indiana General Assembly approved the “Flood Control Act” which established the Indiana Flood Control and Water Resources Commission. The Act empowered the Flood Control Commission with “jurisdiction over the public and private waters in the State and the lands adjacent thereto necessary for flood control purposes.” It charged the Commission to “make a comprehensive study and investigation of all pertinent conditions of the areas in the Stated affected by floods; [and] determine the best method and manner of establishing flood control. . . .” The Commission also approved federal plans for flood control projects located within the state.

The Indiana Flood Control and Water Resources Commission worked closely with the Indiana Board of Health, the State Highway Commission, and the Department of Conservation’s Division of Water Resources, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on a number of flood projects funded by the U.S. Congress. The first projects involved the Wabash River Basin, an area which impacted 76% of the Hoosier state. Engineers estimated losses in the Wabash River valley as high as $3,000,000 annually for a number of years.

July 3, 1948, Governor Gates “turned the first shovel of dirt” at groundbreaking ceremony for the Cagles Mill Dam and Reservoir funded and constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This project, the first of its kind in Indiana, planned a permanent 2,240 acre lake in Putnam County that would protect 43,000 acres of farm land in the Eel River valley.

[11] Laws of Indiana, 1945, 1113-18, 1774-76; Indiana Yearbook, 1945, 780, 891-93; “State Laying Groundwork For Hoosier Road Building,” Valparaiso Vidette Messenger, July 16, 1946; Indiana Yearbook, 1946, 1217-23; “Higher Taxes Needed for Health, Teacher Programs,” Tipton Daily Tribune, January 28, 1947; “ House Defies Gates on Gas Tax Increase,” Valparaiso Vidette-Messenger, March 11, 1947; “Wayne County roads Get $50,483.20,” National Road Traveler, June 3, 1948; “Gates to Ask…,” Indianapolis Star, December 27, 1948, 1, 14; “Gates, Schricker Join Drive to Rebuild Roads,” Indianapolis Star, December 28, 1948; “Battle of Costs Marks Gates’ Term,” Indianapolis News, December 29, 1948; “State Action Needed to Save Road System,” Indianapolis Star, December 29, 1948; “Health, Flood Aid…,” Indianapolis News, December 30, 1948; Madison, Indiana Through Tradition and Change, 185-88.

Before the establishment of the Indiana State Highway Commission by the Indiana General Assembly in 1919, county and township officials were responsible for funding, construction, and maintenance of local roads. In 1920, the newly formed State Highway Commission received its first federal funds for highway improvements. With centralized planning and some funds from state gasoline taxes, by 1940, the Commission oversaw 10,099 miles of designated state highways—only about 50% of those roads were paved.

During World War II, the U.S. government required state highway projects to emphasize maintenance and repair work on the highways that carried interstate transport of war materials. New road construction was restricted to small projects leading to war plants, army camps and industries making war goods. In 1944, the U.S. Congress passed a law (1944 Federal Highway Improvement Act) appropriating money for to the states for road construction and repair. Indiana qualified to receive about $12,000,000 over three years as long as the Indiana General Assembly agreed to fund one-half of the construction costs and two-thirds of the right-or-way costs.

After the war, Indianapolis Star columnist, Farwell Rhodes, Jr., predicted “a complete breakdown of Indiana’s road system. . . by overweight trucks pounding new as well as old roads to pieces.” In 1946, the State Highway Commission asked the State Legislature for more funds to improve roads: “One of the most essential single factors in the expansion of our state’s agricultural, industrial and commercial as well as the social life of our citizens is the development and proper maintenance of the state network of roads, especially that of the heavy traffic arteries. More and more, industry is depending on the highways as a major means of transporting their raw materials and distributing their finished products. As the total volume of this class of traffic increases, the size and weight of the individual transportation unit is also being increased in the never ending peacetime battle to keep costs down. This means that roads and bridges must be materially strengthened to be able to stand up under the pounding of modern traffic.”

The Commission continued: “the citizens of Indiana should invest the tremendous sum in excess of $529,000,000.00 in the next few years to bring the highway system up to a minimum serviceable condition to efficiently handle the then current volume of traffic.” This enormous sum was attributed to a 60% rise in costs of road building and 80-95% rise in costs of bridge building since 1940.

The 1947, Republican-led Legislature did not agree with Gates and the Highway Commission about the necessity of increased funding for roads and “funds finally allocated were short by several million dollars of enough to match federal road grants.” As Governor Gates neared the close of his term, he joined Governor-elect Schricker in a pledge to continue the effort to obtain funds to restore Indiana roads.

[12] “GOP Carried Out Assembly Pledges: Gates,” Indianapolis News, October 10, 1944; Indiana Year Book, 1945, 680; Indiana Year Book, 1946, 740; Laws of Indiana, 1945, 1076-78, 1529-32; “Higher Taxes Needed for Health, Teacher Programs,” Tipton Daily Tribune, January 28, 1947; “Teachers May Get $400 More in State Funds,” Tipton Daily Tribune, February 19, 1947; Indiana Year Book, 1947, xii, xiv, 994; “$51,200 for Cass and City School Funds,” Logansport Press, June 17, 1948; “The Republicans and the Teachers,” Kokomo Tribune, October 8, 1948, Indiana Yearbook, 1948, xiv, 1036; Madison, Indiana Through Tradition and Change, 266-85.

See also: William J. Reese, “Indiana’s Public School Traditions: Dominant Themes and Research Opportunities,” Indiana Magazine of History, 89 (December 1993): 289-334 accessed Scholarworks.

In 1945, there were still 616 one-teacher schools in Indiana—a drastic reduction from about 4500 one-teacher schools in 1920. At that time, local taxes provided about 90% of the support for local schools and local township trustees or city officials wielded great authority over the quality of education and the credentials of teachers. State tax dollars provided less than 10% of local education funding. The economic turmoil of the Depression kept more Hoosier students in school because of the scarcity of jobs; and it also increased the level of state funding for local schools

By the time Ralph Gates became governor, the state provided about 38% of local school revenues.         The Indiana General Assembly in 1945 set the minimum salary for public school teachers at $1200. In 1947, Governor Gates and the Indiana General Assembly raised the amount of state funds distributed to local schools by $10,000,000. By June 30, 1948, the minimum salary for public school teachers in Indiana was $1600.00.

Gates stated that nothing was “more important . . . than the proper education of our youth in Indiana, who will inherit our state and become its leaders on the morrow.”  And, in the Indiana Yearbook, 1948, Gates reported, “During the year the State of Indiana sent more money back to the local communities of the state for Education than ever before in history.”  Thirty-nine and one-half million dollars was sent back to cities and towns to raise every public school teacher’ salary to the minimum base rate; $3,000,000 more was given to schools in poor areas; an additional $5,000,000 allocated from the 3-cent cigarette tax was returned to repair school facilities neglected since the Depression.

[13] “Northern Indiana Hospital for Crippled Children Recommended to Legislature,” Indianapolis Star, January 6, 1945; “Governor’s Special Message to the Indiana General Assembly Scheduled for Delivery February 13, 1945,” 6, 7, Clipping File, Indiana State Library; Laws of Indiana, 1945, 1477-78, 1569-75, 1639-40, 1759-73; Indiana Year Book, 1945, 468, 509, 512-13; “Gates Is Pleased With Results of First Year,” Indianapolis News, January 1, 1946; Indiana Yearbook, 1946, 187-90, 259-60, 559-60, 570, 959; “State Offered Hospital Land,” Indianapolis Star, August 6, 1946, p. 3, c. 3; “Hospital Goes To South Bend,” Indianapolis Star, August 7, 1946, p. 1, c. 2; “Mental Institution Heads, Gov. Gates Map Plans to Absorb ‘Overflow’ Patients,” The Indianapolis Times, August 21, 1946; “Higher Taxes Needed for Health, Teacher Programs,” Tipton Daily Tribune, January 28, 1947; “Budget Commission to Discuss Repair, Building Program,” Indianapolis News, May 19, 1947, pt. 2, p. 8; Indiana Year Book, 1947, xii, xiii, xv, 154-56, 419-20; “Contract Awarded For New Hospital,” Indianapolis Times, November 6, 1947, p. 3, c. 2; “State Setting Up System to Treat ‘Unbalanced’ Criminals,” Indianapolis News, November 21, 1947, p. 8, c. 1; “2 More Hospitals OK’d for Indiana,” Indianapolis News, December 30, 1947, p. 1; “State Hospitals Get Million Aid,” Indianapolis News, January 15, 1948, pt. 2, p. 1, c. 3; “Work to Begin on 1st Unit of New Hospital,” Indianapolis News, March 12, 1948, pt. 1, p. 1, c. 6; “Battle of Costs Marks Gates Term,” Indianapolis News, December 29, 1948; “Health, Flood Aid Credited to Gates,” Indianapolis News, December 30, 1948; Indiana Year Book, 1948, xv, 450-51, 542-45; “Schricker and Gates to Attend Hospital Rites,” Indianapolis News, October 15, 1949, p. 9; “New Mental Hospital gets First Patients,” Indianapolis News, February 2, 1951.

“Nearly 1,000 crippled children in 26 northern counties are receiving no medical attention, a special legislative commission reported to the General Assembly yesterday.” As outgoing Governor Henry Schricker handed the reins of state government to Governor Ralph Gates, he reminded the Indiana General Assembly that it had established a special legislative commission, 1943, to make recommendations on the construction of a hospital in northern Indiana to provide needed services to crippled children in that area. In Gates’ “Special Message” (February 13, 1945) to the 1945 session of the Indiana General Assembly, he stated, “We must cut to the bone all but essential services.” At the same time, he acknowledged that budget “increases have been recommended, chiefly in the charitable, educational and benevolent institutions, too long starved for lack of adequate financial support.”

In 1945, Gates and the Indiana General Assembly reorganized the State Board of Health and passed legislation requiring a survey of all Indiana hospitals and health clinics to determine their abilities to provide adequate service to all Hoosiers. U.S. Congress required the survey as a condition to receive federal grants for hospital and health center construction. In addition, a law was passed that provided for the promulgation of state-sanctioned rules and regulations with which hospitals had to comply; and it required the licensing and regulation of hospitals accordingly with annual inspections.

The 1945 Indiana General Assembly created an Indiana Council for Mental Health whose Director was tasked to study “the whole problem of mental health and disease as it exists in the State of Indiana; . . . to prepare data, plans and specifications regarding the construction of a [psychiatric] hospital to be located at the Indiana University School of Medicine; . . .to establish, supervise and conduct mental health clinics for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of psychiatric disorders, whose services shall be made available to any person in the State of Indiana….” An additional law created the Northern Indiana Hospital for Insane Commission which was responsible for finding a suitable location in northern Indiana for a new psychiatric hospital.

Governor Gates often travelled with this Council as they toured the state to learn first-hand about the problems of caring for mentally-ill patients. Responding to national criticism of Indiana’s standard of treatment, the Council reported that: “One thing has been quite evident in the inspection trips which have been made to various institutions, and this has been the allowing of medical and psychiatric care to become of secondary importance in the consideration of mental illness, while custodial care has appeared to become of primary importance all too frequently. The Council intends to exert every effort to make the medical and psychiatric care of psychiatric disorders become of primary importance so that our public hospitals will not only be hospitals in name but hospitals in reality.” In 1947, the Indiana General Assembly passed legislation to establish a new mental hospital at Indiana University Medical Center and gave authority to the Indiana Mental Health Council to direct the treatment of patients at all state mental hospitals.

Money from the post-war construction fund created by the 1945 tax increase on alcoholic beverages was appropriated for modernization of the Indiana Girls’ School, State Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Children’s Home, and the Indiana Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home; needed repairs were made to state tuberculosis hospitals, and penal and benevolent institutions. A 3-cent cigarette tax provided additional funds for public health. A number of laws were enacted to improve the state’s public health programs. With the State Board of Health authorized as the agent for federal funds, Indiana obtained federal approval for a $25,000,000, 5-year local community hospital construction program.

In 1948, the post-war construction fund provided $1.5 million for repairs and construction of state mental facilities: a new facility was under construction at Westville and a screening hospital was underway at Indiana University Medical Center in Indianapolis. A new Northern Indiana Crippled Children’s Hospital in South Bend was nearing completion.


Politics, Government, World War II