Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Phillips Lee Goldsborough (1865-1946)
MSA SC 3520-1478

Governor of Maryland 1912-1916

The following essay is taken from Frank F. White, Jr., The Governors of Maryland 1777-1970 (Annapolis:  The Hall of Records Commission, 1970), 245-248.

"Phillips Lee Goldsborough, Maryland's second Republican governor since the Civil War and the only member of his party to hold the comptrollership, the governorship and a seat in the United States Senate, was born in Cambridge on August 6, 1865, the son of a Navy paymaster, Captain M. Worthington and Nettie M. (Jones) Goldsborough.  He was educated in public and private schools of Dorchester County following which he was employed as a clerk for the United States Navy.  While he held this job, he studied in his spare time in the office of Daniel M. Henry, Jr., of Cambridge, a former Delegate, State Senator and member of the U.S. Congress.  Goldsborough was admitted to the bar in 1886.

"In 1891, when he was twenty-six, he was elected State's Attorney for Dorchester County, and was re-elected in 1895.  In 1893, Goldsborough married Ellen Showell, daughter of William Showell of Worcester County.  They had two sons, Phillips Lee Goldsborough Jr., and Brice Goldsborough.

"In 1896, he was nearly elected to a seat in the United States Senate by the Legislature during the brief period when the Republicans controlled that body.  After a strong fight on his part and a close vote, George L. Wellington was chosen.

"The year 1897 proved to be a turning point in his career which advanced him to a position of leadership in the Maryland Republican Party.  In that  year, Lloyd Lowndes, the first Republican to be elected Governor of Maryland since the Civil War, induced Goldsborough to run for Comptroller of the Treasury.  To his party's delight, he was elected, the only Republican to occupy that office since 1867.  Goldsborough served only one term, being defeated for re-election in 1899 by Dr. Joshua W. Hering.  His friends related that Goldsborough was so inspired by this experience that he kept alive his ambition to serve his country in the U.S. Senate until he was elected in the Republican landslide of 1928.

"In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Goldsborough Collector of Internal Revenue for Maryland.  He was reappointed to that position by President Taft, serving until 1911, when a Goldsborough-for-Governor boom got underway and he received his party's nomination.  He went on to defeat the Democratic nominee Arthur Pue Gorman, Jr., son [p. 246] of the Democratic boss in the late nineteenth century, to become Maryland's second Republican governor.  Political historians attribute his victory to the bitter Democratic primary fight which occurred between Gorman and the Montgomery County leader, Blair Lee, as well as to 'a reaction against the rapid change in government furthered by Crothers.'1

"Goldsborough was inaugurated as Governor on January 10, 1912, serving until he was succeeded by Emerson G. Harrington on July 12, 1916.  The most important accomplishment of his administration was educational betterment.  In 1914, the Rockefeller Foundation provided sufficient funds for an educational survey to include an examination of all colleges within the state, the public, the normal, the elementary and the secondary schools, the academies, and the professional and the agricultural colleges, all of which received State funds.  In a lengthy study directed by Abraham Flexner of the General Education Board under the guidance of the Maryland Educational Survey Commission, the Foundation reported upon the administration of all State institutions together with their appropriations, and an investigation of their funds.  The result, a study of the entire educational system and the submission of a plan for the State to get the best results from the money it expended, has remained an important landmark in Maryland education.  One of its outstanding features was a new school law which provided for compulsory school attendance, stabilization of the length of the school term, adequate school supervision, the certification of teachers, and the appointment of county boards of education by the Governor.

"During the same year, the State purchased the Maryland Agricultural College at College Park.  Originally founded in 1856, this school had been in financial difficulties for many years.  By purchasing it, the State assumed a stronger degree of control and laid the groundwork for its later merger with the Baltimore professional schools which formed the University of Maryland in 1920.

"In 1912, at Governor Goldsborough's request, the legislature created the People's Court System for Baltimore City.  This new court came into existence to hear cases in which justices of the peace had formerly held jurisdiction.  The new law now made all civil writs returnable the this court, and abolished the fee system which 'discouraged that scramble for business which was so unbecoming in the dispenser of justice.'2

"Other additional far-reaching items of Legislation were passed during Governor Goldsborough's administration.  Probably one of the more important of these was the creation of the Industrial Accident Commission, subsequently renamed the Workmen's Compensation Commission, which received reports of accidents and settled claims arising from them.  Goldsborough made a special effort to improve Maryland's roads, especially during the period when the automobile was just coming into general use.  The General Assembly passed the Home Rule and the Referendum Amendments, both of which were adopted at the election of november 2, 1915.  The one provided for the adoption of a charter form of government for any of the counties or for Baltimore City, while the other outlined procedures for the submission of any act to the voters of the State for approval or rejection.

"Goldsborough's term expired in 1916.  Lambert asserted that his administration was conservative and on the whole beneficial.  in the same year, for the second time he sought the Republican nomination for the United States Senate, but he was unsuccessful.  He was defeated in the primary election by Dr. Joseph I. France who in turn defeated the Democratic candidate David J. Lewis in the general election.  Following his defeat in the Senatorial primary, Goldsborough resumed his law practice and became a banker.  Between 1917 and 1928, he served as the president of the National Union Bank and as chairman of the Baltimore Trust Company.  During World War I, he gave much of his time to bond selling, recruiting and Red Cross campaigns.  All during this period, he kept an eye on party affairs and was prominent in his party strategy.

"When the national campaign of 1928 got underway and a trend to Herbert Hoover as the Republican party presidential nominee developed, Goldsborough decided again to seek his party's nomination for the United States Senate, an ambition he had nourished for so long and an office he had so narrowly missed twice previously.  This time, he was an easy winner in the primary election and in the general election, he defeated the Democratic nominee, William Cabell Bruce, by a plurality of over 41,000 votes.

"In 1934, when his term in the Senate was about to expire, Goldsborough reversed the procedure of 1916.  He turned away from the Governorship to make an unsuccessful bid for the Senate.  He attempted to secure his party's nomination for the governorship, rather than attempt re-election to his Senate seat, but he was defeated in primary election, losing to Harry W. Nice, who won both the nomination and the general election.

"In 1936, Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Goldsborough one of the directors of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.  He was reappointed for a second term in 1941 and was still serving in that capacity at the time of his death.

"Goldsborough made his home in Baltimore and commuted regularly to his office in Washington.  After a short illness, he died at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore on October 22, 1946, at the age of eighty-one.  Following funeral services in Baltimore, he was taken to Cambridge where he was buried in the Churchyard of the Christ Protestant Episcopal Church.

"The Sun paid tribute to his memory in a lengthy editorial which stated that 'the death of Phillips Lee Goldsborough will cause sorrow in Maryland.  Long ago the acerbities that attend a long and ambitious political career passed out of his life.  They passed from Mr. Goldsborough's own spirit and they passed from the spirits of those who contended against him.  The passing was not difficult.  For, even in the height of Mr. Goldsborough's career, he seldom was able to sustain enduring animosity and he seldom was able to compel it in others. . . . In the politics of Maryland, his career was extraordinary in duration and in achievement. . . . His strength was in being a Maryland Gentleman. . . . Goldsborough had a pulling power outside his party that no Republican of his time could equal.'"4

Notes on sources

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