Emerson Columbus Harrington was born on March 26, 1864, at Madison in Dorchester County. He graduated from St. John's College in Annapolis where he also taught. Later he was principal of the Cambridge Academy. In 1898 he began practicing law and a year later was elected State's Attorney for Dorchester County. Known for his prosecutions of liquor and oyster law offenders, he successfully ran for Comptroller of the Treasury in 1911. In 1915 he was elected governor on a platform of reform and readily embraced the recommendations of a bi-partisan commission on economy and efficiency in State Government headed by Frank Goodnow, the president of The Johns Hopkins University. Under Governor Harrington, Maryland adopted a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, and an executive budget process still in use today. In 1917, after the Declaration of War, he toured the state, promoting food production, and exhorting Marylanders to work or to fight. He organized the Council of Defense which built Camp Meade (later Fort George G. Meade), a number of other state facilities, and wartime housing. When his term ended in 1920, he returned to the practice of law until his death in Cambridge on December 15, 1945.
He married Gertrude Johnson of Cambridge in 1893. They had three children, Emerson C., Jr., William J., and Mary Virginia.
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