Rogers, John Rankin, 1838-1901

Alternative names
Birth 1838-09-04
Death 1901-12-26

Biographical notes:

Governor of Washington, 1897-1901.

From the description of Addresses of John R. Rogers : typescripts, 1889-1901. (Washington State University). WorldCat record id: 29852390

As a teenager, John Rankin Rogers went to Boston and apprenticed at a drug store. By 1856, he moved to Jackson, Mississippi, where he managed a drug store until 1860. Rogers moved to Illinois where he farmed and worked as a school teacher and a druggist. In 1876, he moved to Kansas where he again farmed. In 1878, Rogers became an organizer of the Farmers' Alliance. He also served as editor of the Kansas Commoner for several years in Wichita. Rogers was an active member of the farmer-based wing of the populist movement throughout the time of it existence.

In 1890, John R. Rogers moved to the state of Washington, where he settled in Puyallup and operated a drug store. Rogers also served as a leader of the Populist party in Washington. In 1895, he was elected to the state legislature as a Populist. While a lawmaker, Rogers drafted and secured passage of the "barefoot schoolboy bill." The new law made cities bear part of the expense of funding country schools, with the idea of giving equal educational opportunities to all children in the state.

John R. Rogers was elected Washington's one and only Populist governor in 1896. His victory was the product of a fusion of support among Populists, silver Republicans, and Bryan Democrats that pushed Rogers to a victory over his closest opponent, Republican P. B. Sullivan, by over 12,000 votes. As governor, Rogers continued to support state education reform. In addition, he promoted government efficiency and prison system reform.

Throughout the 1890s, Rogers authored many volumes with populist themes. These include: The Irrepressible Conflict; or An American System of Money, 1892; The Rights of Man and The Wrongs of Man, 1893; Politics: An Argument in Favor of the Inalienable Rights of Man, 1894; Homes for the Homeless, 1895; Free Land: The Remedy for Involuntary Poverty . . ., 1897; Looking Forward, or The Story of an American Farm, 1898; Life, 1899; and The Inalienable Rights of Man, 1900.

In September 1900, the Fusionists renominated Rogers as governor and he was reelected as a Democrat in November by a plurality of 2,000 votes, in the face of a plurality for the national and state Republican ticket of 13,000. Rogers served less than a year of his second term before a he died on December 26, 1901 after a short bout with lobar pneumonia.

John R. Rogers married Sara L. Greene in Illinois on March 17, 1861. They had five children: Frederick J. Rogers, professor of physics at Stanford University; Albert R. Rogers, newspaper editor, Santa Barbara, California; Edwin R. Rogers, businessman, Tacoma; Mrs. William Blackman, Spokane; and Helen Rogers, Tacoma. Sara Greene Rogers was born on May 4, 1840 in Gallipolis, Ohio. She died in Washington in 1909.

From the guide to the John Rankin Rogers Papers, 1814-1926, (Washington State University Libraries Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections)


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  • Populism--United States--History
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