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Loveless, Herschel Cellel
(May 5, 1911–May 4, 1989)

–two-term governor of Iowa—was only the fourth Democrat to win Iowa's gubernatorial seat since the Civil War. His election as governor signaled the growing strength of urban residents and labor unions in Iowa politics. During his tenure as governor, Loveless earned a reputation as a tireless worker who combined fiscal responsibility with leadership on issues such as flood control, mental health, and social services. He also promoted reapportionment to help redress the imbalance in rural versus urban representation in the state legislature. At the time he took office in 1957, 26 mostly rural senatorial districts contained one third of Iowa's population, while the other 24 districts held about two-thirds of the state's population. In many respects, Loveless aligned Iowa's Democratic Party more closely with its national counterpart.

    Born on a farm near Fremont, Iowa, Loveless spent his early years attending rural schools before graduating from Ottumwa High School in 1927 at age 16. He worked on a farm for a year after graduation before gaining employment for most of the Great Depression with the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, which employed several hundred workers in Ottumwa. During the 1930s, he also hauled coal and established and operated a petroleum products bulk plant as well as petroleum retail service outlets. In 1939 he took a position in Ottumwa's John Morrell and Company meatpacking plant as a turbine operator in the power plant before returning to the Milwaukee Railroad in 1944. While on a leave of absence from the railroad, Loveless organized Ottumwa's street and sanitation departments and then served as the city council's emergency chief organizer during the disastrous flood of the Des Moines River in June 1947. His success in leading that effort garnered him a large following among Ottumwa residents.

    That support propelled him to two terms as Ottumwa's mayor (1949-1953). During his years as mayor, Loveless oversaw significant development of the city's street and sewer systems. He was particularly concerned with controlling the Des Moines River, and helped to develop plans for a sewer and river wall. He promoted building a new sewage-disposal plant and undertook studies of highway relocation and improvement plans. Loveless established a city planning commission, youth center, and local youth activities council. He was a champion of working-class interests and worked closely with the city's large labor unions. On the state level, he chaired the First Class Cities Division Section of the Iowa League of Municipalities, and as a member of the Cities Legislative Committee helped to revise and modernize municipal codes.

    In 1952 Loveless made his first run for governor, winning 48 percent of the vote against Republican William Beardsley. After completing his term as Ottumwa's mayor, Loveless in 1954 organized the Municipal Supply Corporation, which manufactured, installed, and serviced traffic control devices.

    His campaign for governor in 1956 was successful in part because he capitalized on Iowans' general displeasure with the hike in the state sales tax from 2 to 2.5 percent during Governor Leo Hoegh's tenure. Many Iowa farmer liked Loveless's support for the national Democrats' emphasis on high, fixed agricultural price supports. He gained urban residents' support by advocating changes in Iowa's liquor laws. He also challenged the state's growing AFL-CIO membership to align itself more directly with the Democratic Party. He won his greatest support in industrial cities with a population 25,000 to 50,000.

    During his first term (1957-1959), Loveless successfully championed the repeal of the half-cent sales tax extension, and then spent considerable energy addressing the legislative reapportionment issue, although implementation of reapportionment would not occur until the 1960s and early 1970s. Iowa's weak governorship and Republican-dominated legislature limited his potential for success.

    In his bid for reelection in 1958, Loveless defeated his opponent, William Murray, in 63 of the state's 99 counties, and was especially successful again with urban residents. The reapportionment debate continued through his second term (1959-1961). In addition, during his two terms Loveless urged state approval for flood control efforts on the Des Moines River. He helped to secure federal funds to get the Red Rock and Saylorville dam projects under way. He was also involved in creating new state programs in mental health and social welfare and rehabilitation. When he left office, the state treasury had a surplus of $50 million.

    During the 1960 presidential campaign, Loveless chaired the Democratic National Convention's Rules Committee. Although he garnered some support for the presidential nomination, he instead campaigned for a U.S. Senate seat, while working actively on behalf of the Kennedy-Johnson ticket. In a bad year for many Democrats in Iowa, Loveless lost his race against Republican Jack Miller by nearly 50,000 votes.

    In 1961 President Kennedy appointed Loveless to the Federal Renegotiation Board, which handled revisions of military contracts, a position he retained until 1969. He then became a vice president for government affairs for the Chromalloy Corporation, an Iowa soft drink manufacturer. He retired in 1978 and moved to suburban Washington, D.C. Loveless and his wife, Amelia (Howard) Loveless, had two children and six grandchildren. He died one day shy of his 78th birthday in Winchester, Virginia.
Sources The Herschel C. Loveless Papers are located in Special Collections, University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City. Also useful are Harlan Hahn, Urban-Rural Conflict: The Politics of Change (1971); James C. Larew, A Party Reborn: The Democrats of Iowa, 1950–1974 (1980); and Wilson J. Warren, Struggling with "Iowa's Pride": Labor Relations, Unionism, and Politics in the Rural Midwest since 1877 (2000).
Contributor: Wilson J. Warren