The University of Iowa LibrariesThe Biographical Dictionary of Iowa: Jacket Art - Agriculture - Cresco, Iowa by Richard Haines ca 1934 -  Photo by Scott Christopher courtesy of Gregg Narber


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Herring, Clyde LaVerne
(May 3, 1879–September 15, 1945)

–automobile dealer, governor, and U.S. senator—was the son of James Gwynn Herring and Stella Mae (Addison) Herring. He was born and raised in Jackson, Michigan, where he worked for a while as a jewelry clerk in a store. During that time, he repaired watches for Henry Ford.

    Herring was educated in rural schools and attended one year of high school. He served in the Spanish-American War. His family moved from Michigan to Colorado, where they operated a ranch. In 1906, after four years in Colorado, the family moved to Massena, Iowa, and Herring became a farmer

    Herring married Emma Pearl Spinney (1880-1969) on February 7, 1901. They had three sons. Laverne Barlow and Lawrence Winthrop both died young. The third son, Clyde Edsel (named for his father and Henry Ford's son), was a prisoner of war during World War II.

    In 1908 Herring entered the automobile business in Atlantic, Iowa. As a result of his earlier acquaintance with Henry Ford, Herring received a free car and the right to own the Ford dealerships for all of Iowa in 1910. As president of the Herring Motor Company, and later the Herring-Wissler Company in Council Bluffs and Des Moines, he became wealthy. In 1915 his dealership sold and delivered more automobiles than any other automobile agency in the United States. Unfortunately, he lost much of his fortune in the Great Depression.

    He was defeated as a candidate on the Democratic ticket for governor in 1920 and as a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1922. In 1932 the Democrats nominated him for governor, and he won in the Democratic landslide of that year, becoming only the second Democrat to be elected as governor of Iowa since the Civil War, and the first since Horace Boies in 1890. Herring was reelected in 1934.

    His terms coincided with the worst years of the Depression, and most of his efforts dealt with the economic difficulties of the time. He advocated mortgage moratoriums, delayed farm mortgage foreclosures, increased federal subsidies, regulation of farm prices, unemployment and old age assistance, and the guarantee of bank deposits. During his administration, the legislature established the first state-owned liquor stores and legalized the sale of beer. One of his less popular official acts was to order martial law in Plymouth and Crawford counties to halt farm violence in 1933.

    Herring was the first governor to make extensive use of radio. He held a weekly radio talk show on which he explained his policies. On the show, he supported a one-cent-per-gallon temporary tax on gasoline and pushed for a 2 percent state sales tax and state income tax and corporation tax to be used for property tax relief.

    In his final message to the General Assembly in 1937, Herring stated, "We fought and worked together to make the homes and farms of Iowa secure, to relieve distress, to see that no family suffered for lack of the necessities of life. The measure of our results is found in the security that exists today in Iowa. Our homes are secure... our farms are secure... our banks are secure."

    Before the close of his second term as governor, Herring was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he served for six years. He was defeated for reelection in 1942 by George Wilson. Herring was the first member of the Democratic Party to serve both as governor of Iowa and as U.S. senator.

    While visiting Washington, D.C., in 1945, Herring suffered a fatal heart attack. He and his wife are entombed in the Mausoleum at Glendale Cemetery, Des Moines.
Sources Herring's papers are in Special Collections, University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City. An obituary appeared in the Des Moines Register, 9/16/1945. See also Jacob A. Swisher, The Governors of Iowa (1946).
Contributor: Michael Kramme