Ironton congressman had a long tenure in politics

Published 11:20 pm Saturday, September 13, 2008

Congressman Thomas A. Jenkins and his wife Mabel built the house at 811 South 6th Street where Ron and Georgia Stone now live.

The Stones bought the house from Glen Fairchild, who had bought it from the estate of widow Mabel Jenkins.

To correct an error in last week’s column: it was the estate of Mrs. Jenkins that donated $80,000 to First Methodist Church for a new Sunday School building in memory of Tom Jenkins. Congressman and Mrs. Jenkins were faithful members of First Methodist for many years.

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Jenkins represented Ohio’s 10th Congressional District, of which Ironton was then a part, in Congress from March 25, 1925 until illness forced him to resign on Jan. 3, 1959. He was born in Jackson County in 1880, graduated from Providence College in Oak Hill in 1901 and from Ohio State’s Law School in 1907.

Admitted to the bar that year, he came to Ironton and joined A.R. Johnson’s law offices at Fifth and Center streets where Wolfe and Bentley now practice; Johnson had served in Congress in 1909–1910. His experience probably helped Jenkins, who was elected county prosecutor in 1915 and served from 1916 to 1920. Tom was a delegate to the Ohio Republican Convention in 1920 and 1924. He was elected to the Ohio Senate in 1922 and served in 1923–1924 before election to the U.S. Congress sent him to Washington, D.C. in 1925. He was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1940 and 1944.

Congressman Jenkins appeared with presidential candidate General Ike Eisenhower, Homer Edwards and Oakley Collins on Ike’s campaign train at the N&W Depot on September 24, 1952 as Ike addressed a crowd of 7,000 during his first campaign for the presidency.

Jenkins was a long–serving member of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee. Having an Ironton resident in Congress was beneficial in helping Ironton recover from the 1937 flood. The Ironton Floodwall was the first protecting an entire city on the Ohio River to be completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers after the 1937 flood.

During the 1940s, Ironton was named a Defense Industry Zone and war industries came to Lawrence county, in part due to Jenkins’ influence. The Allied Chemical Ordnance Plant opened at South Point.

The Mt. Vernon Bridge Company came to the riverbank below the Dayton Malleable property and made some of the amphibious assault vehicles used on D–Day –– LST’s and LCT’s complete with radar. Barret’s Division of Allied Chemical opened on S. 3rd Street across from the Semet Solvay.

If there is anyone in Lawrence county qualified and willing to run for Congress in two years, I think all of us should support that person. The advantage of direct representation in Congress seems obvious to me. Let’s put some one up in 2010 and see if we can get them elected.