Harry Hines Woodring
53rd United States Secretary of War
In office
September 25, 1936 – June 20, 1940
PresidentFranklin D. Roosevelt
Preceded byGeorge Dern
Succeeded byHenry L. Stimson
25th Governor of Kansas
In office
January 12, 1931 – January 9, 1933
LieutenantJacob W. Graybill
Preceded byClyde M. Reed
Succeeded byAlf Landon
Personal details
Harry Hines Woodring

(1887-05-31)May 31, 1887
Elk City, Kansas, U.S.
DiedSeptember 9, 1967(1967-09-09) (aged 80)
Topeka, Kansas, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
SpouseHelen Coolidge
EducationLebanon Business University
Military service
BranchUnited States Army
RankSecond Lieutenant
UnitTank Corps
WarsWorld War I

Harry Hines Woodring (May 31, 1887 – September 9, 1967) was an American politician. A Democrat, he was the 25th Governor of Kansas and the United States Assistant Secretary of War from 1933 to 1936. His most important role was Secretary of War in President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's cabinet from 1936 to 1940. After 1938, Roosevelt rejected isolationism regarding Europe. Woodring quietly opposed Roosevelt and was eventually fired.


Harry Hines Woodring was born in 1887[1] in Elk City, Kansas, the son of farmer and Union Army soldier Hines Woodring. He was educated in city and county schools and at sixteen began work as a janitor. He attended Lebanon Business University in Lebanon, Indiana, for one year,[2] 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 U.S. 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.

Governor of Kansas

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, John Brinkley. Brinkley won the most votes, but the state only counted ballots with J. R. Brinkley written in, disqualifying tens of thousands of ballots with variants like John Brinkley written in.[3] Woodring himself admitted he would have lost, had all Brinkley's votes been counted.[4] Woodring 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.[5]

Woodring ran for re-election in 1932, but lost to Republican Alf Landon in a three-way race, again featuring John Brinkley.[6]

On July 25, 1933, Woodring married Helen Coolidge, with whom he had three children. Coolidge was the daughter of United States Senator Marcus A. Coolidge.[7]

War Department

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 in the Roosevelt cabinet from 1936 to 1940. He continued 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.[8] On June 20, 1940, Roosevelt ended the struggle by finally firing Woodring, replacing him with long-time Republican politician Henry Stimson.[9] Woodring remained isolationist, opposing the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940.[10]

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, at the age of 80. He is buried at the Mount Hope Cemetery in Topeka.

See also


  1. ^ Encyclopedia of Kansas
  2. ^ "Harry Hines Woodring". National Governors Association. Retrieved October 2, 2012.
  3. ^ Brock, Pope (2008). Charlatan: America's Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam. Crown Publishing. pp. 160–162. ISBN 978-0-307-33988-1. Retrieved January 11, 2015.
  4. ^ Lee, R. Alton (2002). The Bizarre Careers of John R. Brinkley. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 127–129. ISBN 0-8131-2232-5. Retrieved January 11, 2015.
  5. ^ "Harry Hines Woodring". Kansapedia. Retrieved October 2, 2012.
  6. ^ "KS Governor". Our Campaigns. Retrieved January 26, 2015.
  7. ^ "Harry Hines Woodring". The Evening Independent. Retrieved October 2, 2012.
  8. ^ Goodwin 1994, p. 23–24.
  9. ^ Goodwin 1994, p. 71.
  10. ^ "F.D.R. Favors Conscription But Woodring Is Opposed". St. Petersburg Times. August 3, 1940. p. 1. Retrieved December 9, 2018.


Further reading

Party political offices Preceded byChauncey B. Little Democratic nominee for Governor of Kansas 1930, 1932 Succeeded byOmar Ketchum Preceded byRobert Lemon Democratic nominee for Governor of Kansas 1946 Succeeded byRandolph Carpenter Political offices Preceded byClyde M. Reed Governor of Kansas 1931–1933 Succeeded byAlf Landon Preceded byFrederick Huff Payne United States Assistant Secretary of War 1933–1936 Succeeded byLouis A. Johnson Preceded byGeorge Dern United States Secretary of War 1936–1940 Succeeded byHenry L. Stimson