Kent State, James A. Rhodes & Ohio Today

The picture below, taken in Columbus, Ohio, two weeks ago, holds many ironies.
Columbus, Ohio: Sign in front of Rhodes State Office Tower renamed for James A. Rhodes, the governor who sent the National Guard to Kent State in May 1970.

On May 4, 1970, Ohio National Guardsmen fired on Kent State students, killing four and injuring nine others.  The governor who authorized the Guard’s deployment was James A. Rhodes.  Represented in bronze, it is he who strides toward the camera, with his name below his feet.

He walks toward the State House, across the six lanes of East Broad Street.  The ever-vigilant Columbus Police would have ticketed him for J-walking had he gone directly across the street instead of walking to the end of the long block and waiting for the interminable light to change.

Rhodes name also appears behind him.  The 40-story State Office Tower, a 1975 Brutalist monsterpiece – outside and in – had its first occupants in Rhodes’ third term.  It has all the folksy warmth of Albany’s Rockefeller Plaza, in sharp contrast to its namesake.

Like his contemporary, Nelson A. Rockefeller of New York, Rhodes was elected governor four times as a ‘can do’ Republican.  Neither was a small government politician.  They were builders, visionaries.  Even those of us who disagreed with both (often adamantly) respected them and resented their ability to attract votes from our side of the aisle.

Ohio in the time of John Kasich makes one yearn for the era of James Rhodes.  I never thought I’d say that.