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Warren T. McCray, 1865-1938

Located: 2775 W 1500 S, Kentland (Newton County, Indiana) 47951

Installed 2019 Indiana Historical Bureau, The Town of Kentland, Newton County Economic Development Commission, and the Newton County Historical Society

ID#: 56.2019.2

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Side One

McCray worked in banking and grain dealing and later bred Hereford cattle at his Orchard Lake Stock Farm in Newton County. He served on state charitable and agricultural boards, before entering state politics in 1915 as a Republican gubernatorial candidate. In 1920, at the close of the Progressive Era, Warren T. McCray was elected governor of Indiana.

Side Two

While fiscally conservative and a proponent of limited state government, Governor McCray supported progressive reforms such as improvement of roads and education. He also opposed the Ku Klux Klan and advocated for women’s rights, appointing several women to prominent positions. He was forced to resign in 1924 after a mail fraud conviction, but was pardoned in 1930.

Annotated Text

Warren T. McCray 1865-1938[1]

Side One

McCray worked in banking and grain dealing[2] and later bred Hereford cattle at his Orchard Lake Stock Farm in Newton County.[3] He served on state charitable and agricultural boards,[4] before entering state politics in 1915 as a Republican gubernatorial candidate.[5] In 1920, at the close of the Progressive Era, Warren T. McCray was elected governor of Indiana.[6]

Side Two

While fiscally conservative and a proponent of limited state government,[7] Governor McCray supported progressive reforms such as improvement of roads and education.[8] He also opposed the Ku Klux Klan[9] and advocated for women’s rights, appointing several woman to prominent positions.[10] He was forced to resign in 1924 after a mail fraud conviction,[11] but was pardoned in 1930.[12] 

 

 

[1] 1870 United States Census (Schedule 1), Iroquois Township, Newton County, Indiana, Family History Library microfilm 545846, Page 35A, Line 39, July 19, 1870, accessed AncestryLibrary.com; 1880 United States Census (Schedule 1), Enumeration District 134, Jefferson Township, Newton County, Indiana, Roll 301, Page 282D, Line 16, June 2, 1870, accessed AncestryLibrary.com; Warren T. McCray, “Memoirs of Warren T. McCray, 1865-1926,” Folder 5, Box 1, Warrant T. McCray Collection, Manuscripts, Indiana State Library; “Warren T. McCray,” Certificate of Death, State of Indiana, December 19, 1938, Grant Township, Newton County, Indiana, Indiana Death Certificates, 1899-2911, Roll 13, Indiana State Board of Health, Indiana Archives and Records Administration, accessed Ancestry.com; “McCray, Former Governor, Dies Monday at 73,” Daily Clintonian, December 20, 1938, 1, accessed Newspapers.com; “Warren McCray, Ex-Governor, Dies of Heart Disease,” Franklin Evening Star, December 20, 1938, 1, accessed Newspapers.com.

Warren Terry McCray was born February 4, 1865 on a farm in Newton County. The 1870 census showed five-year-old Warren living with his parents Greenbery and Martha McCray in Iroquois Township, Newton County, Indiana. McCray recalled that this farm was called Hickory Branch. McCray reported that the family moved to Kentland, Jefferson Township, Newton County, Indiana in November of 1870. He stated in his memoir that his father wanted him to have the better educational opportunities available there. The 1880 census confirms that the family made that move and shows 15-year-old Warren was attending school. McCray describes his early years and education in chapters three and four of his memoir. He died December 19, 1938 at his Orchard Lake Stock Farm.

 

[2] “Kentland Items,” Brook Reporter, December 25, 1896, 4, Newspapers.com; “Grain Dealers Meet,” Indianapolis News, November 2, 1898, 8, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Papers Read by Grain Dealers,” Indianapolis Journal, October 20, 1899, 5, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; 1900 United States Census (Schedule 1), Jefferson Township, Newton County, Indiana, Enumeration District 0076, Family History Library microfilm 1240394, National Archives and Records Administration, Page 9, Line 29, accessed Ancestry.com; “Grain Dealers’ Meeting,” Indianapolis News, November 14, 1900, 8, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Additional Delegates,” Indianapolis Journal, November 23, 1900, 5, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; 1910 United States Census (Schedule 1), Jefferson Township, Newton County, Indiana, Enumeration District 0133, Family History Library microfilm 1374357, National Archives and Records Administration, Page 3B, Line 84, accessed Ancestry.com; “How C. I. & S. RY. Was Involved, New Story Out,” Hammond Times, May 1, 1912, 7, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; Annual Report of the Auditor of State of the State of Indiana (Fort Wayne Printing Company, 1916) 95, 146, accessed Google Books; “Memoirs of Warren T. McCray,” Chapter 7, 20, 23; Tony L. Trimble, “Warren T. McCray” in Governors of Indiana: A Biographical Directory, Linda C. Gugin and James E. St. Clair, eds. (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society Press, 2006), 260-266.

During his early career, he worked and invested in banking and agricultural-related businesses. McCray recalled in his memoirs that while still in high school, he began working as “assistant weighmaster for one of the leading grain elevator concerns of the town” and he also “helped out at the bank, of which my father was president.” After graduating in 1881, McCray joined his father full time at the bank. Historian McCray and a partner purchased a grocery business in Kentland and turned a sizable profit. He then “invested in a variety of businesses” including grain, mining, railroads, and acquiring land. In 1896, the Brook Reporter announced that “McCray, Morrison & Co. began taking in grain at their new elevator in Raub [five miles southwest of Kentland], it is one of the largest and equipped with the latest machinery.” He eventually had grain elevators in several Indiana cities. As early as 1898, Indiana newspapers reported that McCray was elected President of the Grain Dealers’ National Association. The 1900 census recorded McCray’s occupation as “Dealer in Grain.” The 1900 census also showed that he, his wife Ella Ade, and their two children were living near Kentland in Jefferson Township, Newtown County. That year, McCray served both as president of the grain dealer organization and a delegate to the Indiana Bankers’ Association convention. The 1910 census listed him as an employer in the “Grain Business” and noted that he owned a grain elevator. He sold his grain business in 1919. A 1912 Hammond Times article referenced some railroad interests that McCray held at the turn of the century and later sold. When his father died in 1913, McCray was made president of his bank, the Discount and Deposit State Bank. The 1916 Annual Report of the Auditor of State of the State of Indiana listed McCray as president and director of the Discount and Deposit State Bank and a director of Citizens State Bank. His many transactions buying and selling farmland around the country are recorded throughout his memoir as well as other businesses he owned stock in such as a coal mine in Illinois, an Indiana railroad, and a stone company in his home town.

 

[3] “Big Stock Sale,” Brook Reporter, November 25, 1904, 4, accessed Newspapers.com; “Picnic for Farmers and Stock Raisers of the State,” Greencastle Herald, July 9, 1912, 4, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “All That is Best in Good Herefords,” Breeder’s Gazette 63, January 1 to July 30, 1913 (Chicago: Sanders Publishing Company, 1913), 505, accessed Google Books; “Famous Show Herd on Indiana Tour,” Greencastle Herald, August 17, 1915, 2, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; Jefferson Township, Newton County [map], 1916, U. S. County Land Ownership Maps, 1860-1918, Collection Number G&M_41, Roll Number 41, Library of Congress Geography and Maps Division, accessed Ancestry.com; American Hereford Record and Hereford Herd Book 49 (Columbia, Missouri: E. W. Stephens Publishing Company, 1919), 74-75, passim, Google Books; Field Illustrated (New York: Advanced Agricultural Publishing Company, January 1920, 148, accessed Google Books; R. L. Polk & Co.’s Indianapolis City Directory (Indianapolis: R. L. Polk & Co., Publishers, 1920), page 973, U. S. City Directories, 1822-1955, accessed Ancestry.com; Field Illustrated 31 (November 1921), 876, accessed Google Books; John Moody, Moody’s Analysis of Investments and Security Rating Books (New York: Moody’s Investors Service, 1922), 1094, accessed Google Books; “Memoirs of Warren T. McCray,” Chapter 9, 12, 13, 15, 18; Trimble, 262-3.

On February 4, 1886, McCray and a partner made a deal to begin breeding livestock and purchased $1500 worth of stock. McCray wrote that in conjunction with his brothers-in-law, he purchased 240 acres in 1891 in Jefferson Township, Newton County, Indiana. He continued, “With the next two years I bought the interests of my associates, and then owned about five hundred acres which now forms the heart of Orchard Lake Farms.” The map cited above shows the exact location of the property and is available in the IHB historical marker file. McCray wrote that “the year of 1900 was also marked as the year I first embarked in the cattle business . . . I had a natural fondness for cattle, and a great admiration for Herefords.” Here, he seems to be making a distinction between the livestock he first purchased in 1886 and the purebred Hereford cattle he began purchasing in 1900. In November 1904, the Brook Reporter announced that McCray and a partner would having a large livestock sale “at the McCray farm three miles south of Brook” [Iroquois Township, Newton County].

McCray hired a “herdsman” who he put “in charge of the cattle and small acreage” in 1905. He purchased more imported Herefords that year as well, establishing his herd. McCray recalled in his memoir that his first public sale of Herefords occurred in 1907. In 1912, McCray held a picnic for the state’s prominent stock breeders at his “Orchard Lake stock farm,” according to the Greencastle Herald. In 1913, the Breeder’s Gazette reported on a sale of Warren T. McCray’s Hereford cattle at Orchard Lake in Kentland, Indiana. The 1919 American Hereford Record demonstrated that McCray was well-known for his breed of cattle and successful in sales. In 1920 and 1921, the Field Illustrated contained several advertisements for Orchard Lake Stock Farm and McCray’s Hereford cattle. The 1920 Indianapolis City Directory listed McCray as president of Standard Live Stock Insurance Company. In 1922, Moody’s Analysis of Investments and Security Rating Books reported that he created McCray Farms Realty Co “for the purpose of acquiring farm lands in Indiana.” McCray recalled in his memoir: “In all the leasing shows and cattle sales of the nation, the productions from my herd, and their descendants, were always near, or at the top, and the fame of the herd and of Orchard Lake Stock Farm extended over all the world and became known where ever better Herefords were known or read about.”

 

[4] “Local News,” Brook Reporter, November 11, 1898, 1, accessed Newspapers.com; “Papers Read by Grain Dealers,” Indianapolis Journal, October 20, 1899, 5, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Grain Dealers’ Meeting,” Indianapolis News, November 20, 1900, 8, accessed Hoosiers State Chronicles; “Local News,” Plymouth Tribune, January 11, 1906, 5, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Superintendent of Northern Hospital,” Plymouth Tribune, July 23, 1908, 4, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Indiana Breeders in Session,” Prairie Farmer 83: 2, January 15, 1911, 36, accessed Google Books; “Latest News,” Hammond Times, January 2, 1912, 1, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Memoirs of Warren T. McCray, Chapter 19, 22.

In 1897, the Grain Dealers National Association elected McCray president, a position he held for many years. McCray explained: “The purpose of the organization was to handle the larger problems of the trade, such as equitable freight rates, insurance problems, arbitration between members . . . to weld the power of individuals into a concrete organization in order to make their influence felt.” This position may have furthered his political ambitions as the association lobbied Congress for their interests, such as lowing taxes on transport across state lines.

In 1900, Governor Winfield T. Durbin appointed McCray to the Board of Trustees of the Northern Hospital for the Insane, a state institution near Logansport. Newspapers show he was reappointed for several years and by succeeding governors. For example, the Plymouth Tribune reported that Governor Frank Hanly reappointed McCray in 1906. He was removed by Governor Samuel Ralston in 1912. McCray was sincerely invested in the welfare of those “wards of the state” and applied himself to improving the hospital. He recalls in his memoirs that he advocated for the addition of tillable land ready for cultivation to the property and was able to add over 402 acres to the existing 198 “on which many able bodied men patients are employed, adding to their bodily health, as well as their contentment of mind, and at the same time producing food stuff, which helps reduce the cost of sustenance.” He continued: “During the years I served as board member . . . we made many valuable and much needed improvements. A splendid dairy herd of Holstein cattle was started, barns and silos were erected and the patients enjoyed an abundance of good wholesome milk for the first time.” While he may have at times expressed his concern in a patronizing manner, he had a genuine desire to help “the poor afflicted men and women.” It should be noted here, that unlike some of his colleagues, he was not a eugenicist. He believed that aid, education, and temperance were the solutions to poverty, mental illness, and institutionalization.

The Prairie Farmer noted McCray was elected president of the Indiana Livestock Breeders Association in 1911. In 1912, McCray was elected to the State Board of Agriculture and served until 1918. In 1915, he was elected President of the Board and served for two years. In 1908, he was elected to the board of the American Hereford Cattle Breeding Association, and in 1913, he was elected President of the organization. In 1917, he was made a trustee of Purdue University, because of his vast agricultural and business experience.

 

[5] “Dead-Sure Republican Town,” Indianapolis Journal, April 21, 1892, 3, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Newton Republican Ticket,” Indianapolis Journal, June 14, 1900, 2, accessed Newspapers.com; “M’Cray’s Entrance Causes Quite A Stir,” Fort Wayne News, July 17, 1915, 7, accessed Newspapers.com; “Panic Talk Is Side-Tracked,” (Terre Haute) Daily Tribune, August 8, 1915, 5, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Miller First Choice in Carroll County,” Columbus Republican, November 11, 1915, 2, accessed Newspapers.com; “Wonderful Development of Warren T. McCray’s Candidacy,” (Rushville) Daily Republican, November 29, 1915, 4, accessed Newspapers.com; “Straws Show Which Way Wind Blows,” Lake County Times, December 2, 1915, 1, accessed Newspapers.com; “Wonderful Development of Warren T. McCray’s Candidacy,” Indianapolis Recorder, December 4, 1915, 1, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Political Gossip,” South Bend News-Times, December 25, 1915, 3, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “W. T. McCray in City of Noblesville,” Noblesville Ledger, December 19, 1915, 1, accessed Newspapers.com; Advertisement, Lake County Times, March 3, 1916, 4, accessed Newspapers.com; “New Leads by 8,071 in 3,137 Precincts,” Indianapolis News, March 10, 1916, 1, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Goodrich Wins Republican Nomination for Governor,” Brook Reporter, March 10, 1916, 1, accessed Newspapers.com; Hancock Democrat, March 23, 1916, 4, accessed Newspapers.com;“Memoirs of Warren T. McCray,” Chapter 10, 12, 24.

Before 1915, McCray had little involvement in politics outside of serving on city and county council and state boards (see footnote 4). He was elected as delegate to the Republican National Convention from Indiana’s Tenth District in 1900, but did not attend because of the local county seat elections scheduled for the same day. Thus, he seemed a rather surprising choice for a gubernatorial candidate in 1915. However, his leadership in various organizations and his success in business had caught the attention of the Republican Party.

 As early as spring 1915, local press began speculating that McCray could win a gubernatorial race. He recalled being surprised and wrote in his memoir: “I had neither inclination or ambition to get into State politics. For many years I had taken an interest in local and congressional politics, but outside of attending a State Convention occasionally, I had never become active in State political affairs.” In addition, his family was not supportive of his running. However, when his “friends and boosters” arrived in Kentland to change his mind, they formed a crowd of 600-800 supporters. He couldn’t say no. He set up a campaign headquarters with a small staff. Notably one of these campaign managers was a woman, Adah E. Burk, who would work with him throughout his political career.

When McCray entered the Republican primary race in July 1915, he appealed to farmers for their support and presented himself as an outsider candidate with “no political entanglements” [Lake County Times]. He also appealed to African Americans, advertising on the front page of the Indianapolis Recorder. (It should be noted, however, that his memoir contains several examples showing that he privately held some prejudices common to white men of the time against African Americans and Jews.) In December 1915, he told a crowd at Noblesville that he was a farmer and a businessman “and that there were no problems of the state that the businessman and the farmer could not solve.” However, several newspapers and critics pointed out that his extreme wealth meant he had more in common with rich, cosmopolitan businessmen than the state’s rural farmers. Nonetheless, he gained the support of the Central Labor Union by 1916 and many farmers. Polling at the close of 1915 showed McCray leading the pack of candidates. However, during the March 1916 primary, he was defeated by James P. Goodrich who went on to win the governorship.

 

[6] “The Political World in Indiana,” Lake County Times, September 13, 1919, 14, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “M’Cray Has New Policies in Mind,” Indianapolis News, November 6, 1920, 1, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “McCray Will Oppose Tax Administration, Favors Election of School Head,” Richmond Palladium, November 17, 1919, 3, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Peru Women for M’Cray,” Indianapolis Star, February 19, 1920, 4, accessed ProQuest Historical Newspapers; “McCray in Tour of Lake County,” Lake County Times, October 30, 1920, 1, accessed Newspapers.com; James P. Goodrich, “Governor’s Message,” January 6, 1921, Journal of the House of Representatives of the State of Indiana, 72nd Session of the General Assembly (Fort Wayne, Indiana: Fort Wayne Printing Company, 1921), 13-37; “M’Cray to Take Oath Today: Inauguration of Governor to Be Simple,” South Bend News-Times, January 10, 1921, 1, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “Simplicity Marks W. T. McCray’s Inauguration: Message Is Strong Document,” Lake County Times, January 10, 1921, 1, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “McCray’s Message to Legislature,” Indianapolis Star, January 11, 1921, 3, accessed ProQuest Historical Newspapers; “Governor McCray Assumes Duties,” Clinton County Review, January 13, 1921, 6, accessed NewspaperArchive.com; Trimble, 264.

By September of 1919, McCray entered the race for the Republican nominee for governor and soon began canvasing the state. As he did in his previous campaign, he appealed to farmers for their support and promised them tax reform. While he was attacked by opponents for presenting himself as a farmer when he was a successful and wealthy business man (as opponents did ahead of the 1915 election) and for not serving in WWI (he was 52-years-old when the U.S. entered the war), he easily won the primary and then the general election for governor. Trimble wrote: “The key to McCray’s [primary] victory may have been the fact that he reached out to the party’s African Americans, gaining the strong support of . . . George P. Stewart.” Stewart was the editor of the Indianapolis Recorder and would have had great influence. [Note: The Indianapolis Recorder is not accessible for this period, but McCray did advertise in the Recorder during his earlier campaign.] McCray received support from women’s rights groups such as the League of Women Voters and public endorsement from suffrage leaders. (For more on his support for the advancement of women politically, see footnote 10). In addition to a state suffrage act and ratification of the national suffrage amendment, McCray advocated for prohibition, a blue sky law, and a state highway law.

                In November 1920, McCray defeated his Democratic opponent Carleton B. McCulloch with fifty-five percent of the vote. He was inaugurated Governor of Indiana January 10, 1921. McCray served as the 30th Governor of Indiana from January 10, 1921 – April 30, 1924 at the close of the Progressive Era. In his statement to the General Assembly, McCray stated, “I am inclined to look with disfavor on the enactment of a great mass of legislation.” He encouraged them instead to improve the administration of existing laws.” For information on his progressive reform work as governor see footnotes 8 and 10. For information on his removal from office see footnote 11.

 

[7] Report of the State Board of Tax Commissioners to the Seventy-Third General Assembly (Indianapolis: Wm. B. Burford, Contractor for State Printing and Binding, 1922), 11-12, accessed Google Books; “McCray’s Message to Legislature,” Indianapolis Star, January 11, 1921, 3, accessed ProQuest Historical Newspapers; Warren T. McCray, “Message of Governor Warren T. McCray to the Seventy-Third General Assembly of Indiana, January 4, 1923, Journal of the House of Representatives of the State of Indiana, 73nd Session of the General Assembly (Indianapolis: Wm. B. Burford, Contractor for State Printing and Binding, 1923), 11-21.

As a grain dealer, McCray had long felt the strain of state and federal taxes on both the farming and distributing side of his business. As president of the National Grain Dealers’ Association, he had been involved in lobbying Congress for less federal taxes. (See footnote 4 for more). After he became governor, he continued to advocate for more local control over taxation. In 1921, he addressed the Indiana General Assembly about the “curb” needed on the “wasteful expenditure of the people’s money.” He offered a solution: “I suggest, therefore, that the fixing of the tax rates should remain with the local taxing officers” with provisions made for appeals at the state level. He felt strongly that the fixing of tax rates should be controlled locally, with oversight by the state only “to regulate extravagance.” The legislature complied, enacting laws that gave local officers authority of bond issues and tax levies. In general, McCray strove for an “efficient, businesslike, economical administration” and that “every public expenditure should be held to the absolute minimum,” as he explained to the General Assembly in 1921. McCray even more directly expressed his views on state government in his 1923 address to the General Assembly. He stated:

What the people of Indiana want is a season of governmental economy and legislative inaction and rest. They demand a closed season on new legislation. They would like to see you come together, pass a few important and constructive laws, repeal many that no cumber the statute books and then adjourn. Indiana does not need a great mass of new laws.

Nonetheless, he encouraged reform in several areas as described in footnote 8.

 

[8] “McCray Will Oppose Tax Administration, Favors Election of School Head, Richmond Palladium, November 17, 1919, 3, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles; “McCray in Tour of Lake County, Lake County Times, October 30, 1920, 1, accessed Newspapers.com; “McCray’s Message to Legislature,” Indianapolis Star, January 11, 1921, 3, accessed ProQuest Historical Newspapers; Warren T. McCray, “Message of Governor Warren T. McCray to the Seventy-Third General Assembly of Indiana, January 4, 1923, Journal of the House of Representatives of the State of Indiana, 73nd Session of the General Assembly (Indianapolis: Wm. B. Burford, Contractor for State Printing and Binding, 1923), 11-21; “Memoirs of Warren T. McCray,” Chapter 27.

                McCray consistently supported reform measures for the education system and included several as tenets of his campaign platform as early as the fall of 1919. And while he advocated for conservative spending in general, he encouraged the General Assembly in 1921 to “carefully guard against such economy as may retard or injure the advancement of the educational standards of Indiana.” He continued, “Indiana must lead, not follow, in all matters pertaining to education.” In 1923, he made recommendations on education reform to the General Assembly based on a “comprehensive survey” he commissioned over the previous year. He advocated for a system where locally controlled public schools would be supported by county units, centralizing the business of “handling school affairs” without eliminating local control. He told lawmakers: “I am deeply impressed with the importance of this reform, believing that it will have an everlasting benefit and significance not only in the quality of work performed but also the expense incurred.” McCray noted in his memoirs that he considered the improvement of the educational system the most valuable act of government. He wrote, “There is nothing that contributes so much to the citizenship of the State and Nation, nor as much to the peace, contentment and happiness of the individual.”

Another important tenet of McCray platform during the 1920 campaign was passage of “a state highway law in order to give Indiana one of the best systems of transportation of any state in the Union” (Lake County Times). Once elected, he spoke to the General Assembly on the “importance of an enlarged high system” and called for Indiana’s continued leadership role in the good roads movement. He continued, stating that he “emphasized the imperative necessity for the further development of our highway system” and “proper maintenance of the road systems now taken over by the state highway commission.” In his memoir, McCray recalled, “I was a staunch advocate of good roads, and never ceased to labor for the improvement and expansion of the good road movement.” See marker 71.2010.1 Lincoln & Dixie Highways for more on the good roads movement in Indiana.

McCray also advocated for the Gasoline Tax Bill and stated that he “virtually forced” it through the 1923 General Assembly. It raised five million dollars in the first year which was used to improve roads. While the tax had many opponents in 1923, an increase in the tax passed in 1925 without any opposition because it had proved so effective. 

 

[9] “Open Letter to McCray Flays Ku Klux Klan Entry Into State,” Logansport Pharos-Tribune, August 26, 1921, 9, accessed Newspapers.com; “Labor Body Asks for Revocation of Ku Klux Charter,” Logansport Morning Press, September 28, 1921, 8, accessed Newspapers.com; “Governors Flay Ku Klux Klan at Closing Session,” Richmond Item, December 17, 1922, 1, accessed Newspapers.com, “Memoirs of Warren T. McCray,” Chapter 33.

                McCray stated that he had been opposed to the Klan and their politics since reading Albion W. Tourgée’s work A Fool’s Errand and the Invisible Empire when he was just fifteen years old. McCray recalled:

I read this book with profound interest, and an impression was made upon my boyish mind that has never been effaced, and the name Ku-Lux-Klan, then and there, became a hated term to me, and has always stood out in my mind as a symbol of super-government, and as a defiance of the Constitutional rights of certain classes or our citizens, who were made the especial rank of their narrow minded, bigoted hatred.

As governor, McCray opposed the Klan on several major issues. The Klan had obtained a state charter through Secretary of State and Klan member Ed Jackson. Such a charter served to recognize and legitimize the hate group on an official level. McCray rebuked Jackson in no uncertain terms for claiming that the group was “a patriotic order.” McCray, instead described them as “an organization that sties up strife, arrays race against race . . . and abrogates the Constitution of the United States, which guarantees equal rights to all citizens.” McCray spoke out publically against the charter and took the case to the Attorney General who sided with the Klan and Jackson. However, McCray was dedicated to making sure the Klan did not terrorize Hoosier during his tenure. McCray told Jackson that if the Klan dared to don their “cowardly hooded masques” or tried to find a way around any existing laws that already covered their violent and illegal activities, he would “call the Legislature together immediately and endeavor to have such measure passed as will cover them.”

 In another incident, the Secretary of the State Board of Agriculture brought McCray the Klan’s proposal to have a Klan day at the Indiana State Fair and offered “to pay well for the privilege.” McCray denied the application because, he said, the fairgrounds belonged to “all the people of the State, regardless of color, nativity, or creed, and I would not consent to any organization having use of the property, even for one day, that has tenants, principles or purposes in conflict with the rights of any citizens.” In 1922, D. C. Stephenson tried to intimidate McCray to sway his handling of a coal strike. (Union leaders also condemned McCray’s declaring of martial law to break the strike). Toward the end of his tenure as governor, Ed Jackson also attempted to bribe him. The Klan wanted to appoint their own Marion County prosecutor. McCray refused the bribe and in 1927 testified against Jackson in court.

 

[10] “Peru Women for M’Cray,” Indianapolis Star, February 19, 1920, 4, accessed ProQuest Historical Newspapers; “McCray in Tour of Lake County,” Lake County Times, October 30, 1920, 1, accessed Newspapers.com; “Miss Adah Bush M’Cray’s Choice for Secretary,” Indianapolis Star, November 5, 1920, 1, accessed ProQuest Historical Newspapers; “McCray’s Message to Legislature,” Indianapolis Star, January 11, 1921, 3, accessed ProQuest Historical Newspapers; “Memoirs of Warren T. McCray,” Chapter 27; Fred Whitford, Andrew G. Martin, and Phyllis Mattheis, The Queen of American Agriculture: A Biography of Virginia Claypool Meredith (Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press: 2008), 242; Angie Klink, The Dean’s Bile: Five Purdue Women and Their Quest for Equality (Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press: 2017), 18; Brittany Kropf, “Marie Stuart Edwards: Suffragist and Social Reformer,” Indiana State Library, accessed blog.library.in.gov/tag/womens-suffrage/.

While they couldn’t vote in the primary, the general election was the first in which Indiana women participated because of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. McCray received support from women’s rights groups such as the League of Women Voters and public endorsement from suffrage leaders. The Indianapolis Star reported in February 1920: “Mr. McCray has been a consistent and valuable supported of suffrage for many years.” In his inauguration speech, he noted, “In making appointments I shall try to secure men and women best fitted for the position to be filled.” McCray told the General Assembly in January 1921, “It is a matter of personal gratification to me . . . that the women of Indiana as well as the other states of the Union have been granted the full right of franchise since your last meeting.” He continued, “I respectfully suggest to the General Assembly that you give to the women of Indiana full participation in any privileges or powers of government which you may create at this session, and it is my hope that their excellent qualifications for public service may be fully utilized.” McCray led the way through his own actions in appointing several prominent women to important posts.

The first appointment announced by the governor-elect in 1920 was Adah E. Bush to the position of private secretary to the governor. Bush had also helped to run McCray’s campaign. The Indianapolis Star reported that “Miss Bush will be the first woman ever to serve in that position in Indiana” and that “few governors in the entire country ever have had a woman secretary.” Other members of his staff included Janette Harris, Fern Ale, Bertha Thompson, and Ruth Sulgrove. McCray wrote that the office had never functioned better than it did under the “clerkship of this group of young ladies of training, personality and ability.” After taking office, Governor McCray appointed Virginia C. Meredith to the Purdue University Board of Trustees in 1921. Meredith, a lifelong advocate of education and advancement of women through home economics and farming, became the first women to serve in this position. In 1922, he appointed Marie Stuart Edwards to the Indiana State Board of Education. Edwards, was a well-known suffrage advocate, civic leader, and progressive reformer.

 

[11] U. S. District Court, The United States of America vs. Warren T. McCray, Indictment 2441, Violation: Section 215 C. C., Use of Mails in Scheme to Defraud, Filed February 23, 1924, Folder 1, Box 1, Warren T. McCray Collection, Manuscripts and Rare Books Division, Indiana State Library; United States vs. Amos D. Morris and Warren T. McCray, Brief of Warren T. McCray on Demurrer to the Several Counts of the Indictment, No. 2434, November Term, 1923, Folder 9, Box 1, Warren T. McCray Collection, Manuscripts and Rare Books Division, Indiana State Library; “Memoirs of Warren T. McCray,” Chapter 37.

Facing bankruptcy, which McCray blamed on a 1920-21 farm depression and a shift in policy by the Federal Reserve Banks, McCray secured loans with fraudulent promissory notes. According to McCray’s memoirs the depression required him to take out loans to maintain his cattle (if he sold them he would have lost money, something he couldn’t afford since he was already in debt). He had long relied on his diversified farm land holdings to secure his loans, but farmland was worthless with no one buying in that market. He took out more and more loans until finally calling together a group of banker friends who agreed to split his debt between their banks. However, not all of his creditors were satisfied with this arrangement as security. They brought suit to force him into bankruptcy. McCray’s Discount and Deposit State Bank collapsed and other Indiana banks demanded an investigation of the promissory notes he had given them for loans. He had also borrowed money from the Indiana Agricultural Board among other institutions. In April 1924, he was tried in Marion County Criminal Court for embezzlement which resulted in a hung jury. That same month he was convicted in federal district court for using the U.S. Postal Service to distribute his false promissory notes. He resigned and served over three years of a ten year sentence.

While Lieutenant Governor Emmett Forest Branch took over for McCray in the immediate aftermath of the scandal, McCray’s arrest removed the last obstacle to Klan influence in Indiana politics. Klan supporter Ed Jackson was elected in 1924. For information on Branch see state historical marker 55.2018.1 Emmet Forest Branch and for more on Ed Jackson and the Klan see 49.2013.2 Indianapolis Times.

[12] “Friends Draft Petition Asking for Pardon of McCray, Former Indiana Governor,” Decatur Herald, August 12, 1925, 1, accessed Newspapers.com; “M’Cray Gets His Liberty,” (Elwood) Call-Leader, August 31, 1927, 1, accessed Newspapers.com; “M’Cray Walks from Prison to Start Return Journey Home; On Parole, Is 62, Penniless,” Vidette-Messenger of Porter County, August 31, 1927, 1, accessed Newspapers.com; M’Cray Given Full Pardon by President,” Logansport Pharos-Tribune, December 24, 1930, 1, accessed Newspapers.com; “Former Governor Is Restored to His Civil Rights by President,” Kokomo Tribune, December 24, 1930, 7, accessed Newspapers.com; Terrence Tobin, ed., Letters of George Ade (West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press, 1998), 105-6.

Many prominent Indiana politicians and citizens, including his friend, the respected author George Ade, worked for McCray’s release from prison. He was paroled August 30, 1927. On December 23, 1930, President Herbert Hoover pardoned McCray. When word reached him at Orchard Lake by telegram, McCray stated that he was “very happy” and was working to restore his farm, which was saved from foreclosure by friends while he was incarcerated.

 

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