Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Joshua W. Hering (1833-1913)
MSA SC 3520-1571


Born near Johnsville, Frederick County, March 8, 1833.  Son of Daniel S. Hering and Margaret (Orr) Hering.  Graduated from the University of Maryland School of Medicine; honorary master of arts, Western Maryland College, 1885; honorary doctor of laws, St. John's College, Annapolis, 1900.  Methodist Protestant.  Married first wife Margaret Henrietta Trumbo (d. September 27, 1883) on October 18, 1855; four children Mrs. Thomas A. Murray, Mrs. Frank Z. Miller, Dr. Joseph T. Hering, Charles E. Hering.  Married second wife Catherine F. Armacost on March 7, 1888; no children.  Resided in Westminster.  Died in Westminster, Carroll County, September 23, 1913.  Buried in Westminster Cemetery.

Joshua W. Hering was a medical doctor who practiced medicine in Westminster, Maryland from 1855 to 1967 and part-time after 1867 due to ill health.  He later became a banker and a cashier at the Union National Bank, from about 1867 until 1913.  He was a charter member (1870) and president after 1872 of the Mutual Fire Insurance Company of Carroll County.  His first political office was that of Maryland state senator (Democrat), which he held from 1896 to 1900.  In the senate, he was a member of the Finance Committee and the Corporation Committee, and was chair of the Committee on Revaluation and Assessment as well as the Joint Conference Committee.   In 1892 and 1896 he was president of the General Conference of the Methodist Protestant Church, of which he was also a member from 1870 to 1904.  In 1899 he was elected president of the Maryland Banker's Association.  He was elected Maryland's comptroller of the treasury and served from 1900 to 1904 and again from 1907 to 1910.  At the age of 75 in 1910, Hering resigned as comptroller when Governor Austin L. Crothers appointed him Public Service Commissioner, a position he held until his death in 1913.

Hering became interested in fostering higher education and was co-founder (1881), treasurer, and president of the board of trustees of Western Maryland College.  He was also a co-founder (1882) and member of the board of Westminster Theological Seminary and co-founder (1895) and member of the board of managers of the Home for the Aged at Westminster, a Methodist Protestant Church home.  He was a charter member of the Maryland Educational Endowment Society of the Methodist Protestant Church as well as a member of the board of managers of the Westminster Cemetery Company.  He served as a director of the Baltimore and Reisterstown Turnpike Company.  He was a member of the Door to Virtue Lodge of Masons; Salem Lodge of Odd Fellows; Charity Lodge, Knights of Pythias.  He served as an honorary pallbearer for the funeral of former attorney general John Prentiss Poe in 1909.  He was a member of the Methodist Protestant Church and was a Sunday School superintendent from 1888 until his death in 1913.

While serving as comptroller of the treasury in the spring of 1902,  Hering was sued by Robert Shriver, a long-time resident of Cumberland, president of the First National Bank of Cumberland and President of the Board of School Commissioners in Allegany County (Robert Shriver vs. Joshua W. Hering, Comptroller of the State of Maryland.  Court of Appeals of Maryland.  97 Md. 19; 54 A. 651; 1903 Md. LEXIS 130).  Shriver, described in the court briefs as simply a property-owner and taxpayer in Allegany County, brought suit in the Circuit Court of Anne Arundel County against Hering because he did not agree with the way he was apportioning school tax money.  Article 77 of the Code of Public General Laws of Maryland stated that the tax money would be distributed by the comptroller according to the respective populations of the counties between the ages of five and twenty as determined by the state census of 1900.  Shriver interpreted that law to mean that the white schools would be funded according to the white population in the counties, while the black ("colored") schools would be funded according to the black population in the counties.  Hering, represented by Attorney General Isidor Rayner, argued that his method of distributing school tax money followed the custom and practice of the comptrollers before him since 1872; which was to distribute money for the white schools to the counties in proportion to their entire populations, both white and black, between the ages of five and twenty; and to distribute money for the black schools to the counties in proportion to their black populations between the ages of five and twenty.*  Shriver's attorneys, D. J. Blackiston, James W. Owens and Albert A. Doub, argued that this method of apportionment was unfair and against the law because it benefited white schools in counties with large black populations at the expense of those with small black populations.   They argued that counties like St. Mary's used their large black populations as a basis to receive a large distribution of funds for white schools from the State School Tax fund, and that this practice constituted a "hardship" to the white population of Allegany County because Allegany County had a small black population.  Shriver asked the court for a writ of mandamus that would force Hering to distribute school money according to his interpretation of the law as outlined above.  Hering responded that he believed that his interpretation of the law was correct.  Both the Circuit Court of Anne Arundel County and the Court of Appeals of Maryland held that the language in Article 77 was clear:  The comptroller must use the same method to calculate the apportionment of school tax money for both white schools and black schools, and that the law said he must do so according to the entire population of the counties between the ages of five and twenty regardless of race.  If the judges were to decide otherwise, they would have to insert the words "white" and "colored" into the law, which they could not do in good conscience, according to the Court of Appeals briefs filed on the case.  Court of Appeals Chief Judge James McSherry and Associate Judges John Parran Briscoe, Andrew Hunter Boyd and James Alfred Pearce heard the case, with Judge Pearce delivering the opinion of the court.  The judges' decision meant that black schools located in counties with large white populations would receive more money from the State School Tax fund than they had under the previous method of distribution, while the white schools of Allegany County would remain largely unaffected.  In his Annual Report of the Comptroller of the Treasury of the State of Maryland for the Fiscal Year Ended September 30, 1903 to the General Assembly of Maryland, Hering reported that he had "scrupulously observed" the courts' orders.
(p. xiv).

Another important case that was settled by the U.S. Supreme Court during Joshua W. Hering's first term as comptroller was one involving the State of Maryland and the Northern Central Railway Company.  In his Annual Report of the Comptroller of the Treasury of the State of Maryland for the Fiscal Year Ended September 30, 1903 to the General Assembly of Maryland, Hering wrote that "the effect [of this case was] far-reaching and important to the State."  By chapter 16 of the Acts of 1880, the State of Maryland had imposed an annual tax on the Northern Central Railway Company of; .5 percent of its annual gross receipts.  Ten years later by chapter 559 of the Acts of 1890, the legislature fixed the annual tax of all railroad companies operating by steam in Maryland at the rate of 1 percent of gross receipts.  The State of Maryland contented that the Northern Railway Company was subject to the latter law and was liable for the higher tax rate, while the railway company claimed that chapter 16 of the Acts of 1880 had constituted a valid contract which, under the U.S. Constitution, could not be impaired by any state law.  The Superior Court of Baltimore City first heard the case and decided in favor of the railroad.  Former Maryland attorney general George R. Gaither argued the state's appeal before the Court of Appeals of Maryland and later before the U.S. Supreme Court, where he argued that chapter 16 of the Acts of 1880 did not constitute a contract between the railroad and the state because Maryland's Constitution of 1850 provided that all charters granted by the state could be altered or repealed (the Maryland legislature had granted the railway its charter by chapter 250 of the Acts of 1854).  Maryland Court of Appeals judges James McSherry, David Fowler, John Parran Briscoe, Henry Page, Andrew Hunter Boyd, James Alfred Pearce and Samuel D. Schmucker decided in favor of the state.  The railway company appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, whose justices agreed with the Maryland high court.  The result was that the railroad was compelled to pay the two percent tax on its gross receipts, amounting to $225,017.92 in back taxes and an additional $32,000 per year in revenue for the state.

Hering ran for a second term as comptroller in 1907 on the democratic ticket, which claimed credit for upgrading public buildings and building good roads, lowering taxes and reducing state debt.  The Evening Capital commented on a speech he gave in Annapolis at the opening of the campaign, "Dr. Hering, candidate for State Comptroller, the position which he once held, is a wonder.  Although an old man, his strong and vigorous mentality, his familiarity with all the details of the State's finances, his honesty, truthfulness and straightforwardness all, all win for him a high place in the confidence and veneration of the people.  His speech was convincing, and was instructive and object lesson of the condition of the State's treasury which it demonstrated convincingly."   His second term lasted from 1908 to 1910 and was much quieter than his first.  During that time, the state won a lawsuit against Baltimore City for five years' worth of back taxes on its stock, amounting to $83,186.30, and the first state roads loan of $5 million was authorized by chapter 141 of the Acts of the General Assembly of 1908.


*The practice that Hering followed arose from the passage of two separate laws.  According to the Acts of 1868, chapter 407, the school tax was to be distributed to the counties in proportion to their respective populations without regard to race because at that time, no tax money at all was being used to support black schools.  In 1872, however, the legislature appropriated for the first time a portion of tax money to support black schools.  The amount was then distributed according to the respective black populations of the counties.

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