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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Carroll, Beryl Franklin
(March 15, 1860–December 16, 1939)

–Iowa's 20th governor (and the first born in Iowa)—was born on a farm in Davis County, the 12th of Willis and Christina Carroll's 13 children. After schooling in Davis County, he graduated from Northern Missouri State Normal College at Kirksville in 1884, and then taught in Missouri for five years. On June 15, 1886, he married Jennie Dodson of Adair County, Missouri. The couple had two sons.

    In 1891 Carroll became publisher and editor of the Davis County Republican. In 1896 he was elected state senator from the district that encompassed Davis and Appanoose counties. After two terms, he became postmaster in Bloomfield. In 1902 he was elected State Auditor and was twice reelected. He was an outstanding success in that office. In 1908 he was nominated as the Republican candidate for governor and was elected by a huge majority. He was reelected in 1910.

    In his inaugural address, Carroll stressed the need to conserve Iowa's natural resources. He had been inspired by President Theodore Roosevelt's White House conference in May 1908, where the president had declared that the use of natural resources was "the weightiest problem now before the nation."Carroll declared that Iowa's forests were nearly gone, and that land least suitable for cultivation should be used to grow timber. The supply of coal was also being mined at an alarming rate. Moreover, Iowans should farm fewer acres and do it better; the building up and husbanding of the soil would greatly add to the state's productive resources. He recommended creating a commission to study Iowa's natural resources. In response, the 33rd General Assembly created the Iowa State Drainage, Waterways and Conservation Commission to investigate Iowa's waterways, forests, soil, minerals, and flood control and drainage projects; it was also charged to investigate water power and the possibility of navigation of at least one river.

    Carroll was an active supporter of the good roads movement in Iowa. He called a meeting of county officials and other representatives at Des Moines to discuss improving the state's highways. A Good Roads Association was formed, and annual meetings with ever-increasing interest followed. One of its proposals was a Highway Commission, which the 35th General Assembly created after Carroll had left office.

    Education was another priority of Carroll's. He inherited a proposed revision of the entire school laws of the state. In 1909 he sought the 33rd General Assembly's "best thought and attention" on the proposed revision, but it died in committee. In 1911 he again urged the 34th General Assembly to give the problem of schools "more than usual attention."The legislature responded by establishing a system of normal training in high schools.

    In 1911 Carroll pointed out that the state's tax laws were inequitable. It had been 14 years since there had been a general revision of the tax laws. Acting on the governor's recommendation, the 34th General Assembly duly provided for the appointment of a special tax commission to study taxation, prepare a new revenue code, and submit it to the next session of the legislature. In his biennial message in 1913, Carroll commended the commission for its "splendid work" and asked the legislature to carefully consider its recommendations. However, during Carroll's successor's term of office, the 35th General Assembly refused to pass the bill recommended by the tax commission.

    Under an act passed by the 34th General Assembly, Carroll appointed a commission to report on workers' compensation. Although he suggested some modifications to the commission's report, he thought that "the commission deserves the highest commendation for the faithful and able service it has rendered both in the report made and the bill prepared."After Carroll left office, the 35th General Assembly passed the commission's bill, albeit with many amendments.

    Carroll said that the most important legislation passed during his tenure was the bill creating the State Board of Education. In 1909 the General Assembly created that body, which took over governing the state colleges in Iowa City, Ames, and Cedar Falls. The governor appointed the nine members of the Board of Education and the three members of its Finance Committee. Two years later Carroll commended the Board of Education's published report to the 34th General Assembly, especially its recommendations about continuing the millage tax, adjusting salaries, and applying business methods. Sixteen years after Carroll appointed the members of the Board of Education, he was still speaking with pride of the quality of the men he had selected.

    Upon leaving office, Carroll went into business, becoming president of the Provident Life Insurance Company and the Carroll Investment Company in Des Moines. He died in Louisville, Kentucky, while visiting his son there.
Sources include Governor Carroll's Inaugural Address, Iowa House Journal (1909), 97– 112; his Biennial Messages, Iowa House Journal (1911), 26–53, and Iowa House Journal (1913), 28–65; and an obituary in Annals of Iowa 22 (1940), 341.
Contributor: Richard Acton