Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Uz McMurtrie (1884-1960)

                    From the Centennial History of Grant County, Indiana, 1812-1912, Volume 2.

   The youthful looking gentleman pictured above is one Uz McMurtrie, a 1908 graduate of the Indiana State University at Bloomington who in 1916 was elected as Indiana State Treasurer at the ripe old age of 32! One of the youngest men to ever occupy the state treasurer's office. McMurtrie's peculiar first name "Uz" has left me scratching my head in bewilderment, as I can't quite figure out why he was given his outstandingly different name!
   A lifelong resident of the Hoosier State, Uz McMurtrie was born in Attica, Indiana on July 12, 1884, one of five children born to William (1845-1916) and Elizabeth Georgetta Starr McMurtrie (1851-1924). The reasons behind William and Elizabeth bestowing the the name "Uz" upon their son have been lost to history, but, as research has shown, the name looks to have had its origins in the Bible, where "Uz" is recorded as being both a place (an ancient land mentioned in the Old Testament) and a person (Uz, the son of minor biblical figure Aram, who was himself the grandson of Noah.) During preparations for this article I was ready to believe that the name "Uz" was short for "Uzziel" or "Uzziah' (both biblical names), but it appears that this wasn't the case..... as shown in his 1917 draft registration card, McMurtrie did indeed have a very odd two letter first name!
    Uz McMurtrie's early life was centered in the town of Attica, where he attended public schools.  He would go on to graduate from the Marion, Indiana High School and in 1904 entered the University of Indiana at Bloomington, and his time at the university saw him serve as President of the 1908 graduating class whilst also being active in the student press, holding the posts of advertising manager of the college's Daily Student newspaper and vice president of the Indiana Collegiate Press Association. McMurtrie completed his senior thesis on "The Separation of the Sources of State and Local Taxation" and graduated in the class of 1908 with his bachelor of arts (A.B.) degree.
   After graduating  McMurtrie returned to Marion, Indiana and entered politics in 1909, becoming the deputy treasurer of Grant County at age 25. He served three years in this capacity, and in November of 1912 was elected to a term as County Treasurer, gaining distinction as "the youngest county treasurer in the state." McMurtrie married during his term on February 11, 1914 in Marion, Indiana to Elizabeth Hogan (1885-1965) and one son was born to the couple, William Hogan McMurtrie (1917-1997), later to be in the employ of the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) in Los Angeles.


                                   Uz McMurtrie's senior class portrait from the 1908 Arbutus Yearbook.

   McMurtrie's ascension to the county treasurer's office at such a young age garnered him state wide coverage in newspapers of the time, many of which marked him for further success in the political field. He was returned to the office of county treasurer in the 1914 election year, winning, according to the Winchester Journal, "on his official record and by fearless, aggressive campaigning methods."
  During his second term as Grant County treasurer Uz McMurtrie announced that he would be entering as a Republican candidate in the race for State Treasurer of Indiana. Formally entering the race in October 1915, McMurtrie's announcement received substantial press in the Winchester, Indiana Journal, which touted him as a "aggressive young republican", while also noting that:
"The showing made in 1912 marked McMurtrie for statewide notice and admiring comment, as the successful Republican candidate that year in Indiana was a political phenomenon. McMurtrie's still more remarkable vote in 1914, obtained in an impressive Republican fight and on his official record, put the Grant County man before his party as a logical aspirant for state honors."
                                                             From the Winchester Journal, October 13, 1915.

    Riding high on a crest of popularity, McMurtrie won the State Treasurer's office in the 1916 election, formally taking office in February 1917 at age 33, the youngest man ever elected to that office up to that time. He was reelected as treasurer in the following year and served until the conclusion of this term in February 1921, being succeeded by fellow Republican Ora J. Davies (1874-1958).
    After leaving the treasury post Uz McMurtrie spent a great deal of the remainder of his life actively engaged in the affairs of his alma mater, the University of Indiana. As one of the school's most distinguished graduates, McMurtrie was a two time President  of the Indiana University Alumni Association and was a past director of the executive committee of the Indiana University Foundation. In 1939 he was appointed to a vacancy on the Indiana University Board of Trustees, succeeding trustee Albert Raab, who had died some weeks previously. McMurtrie's membership on the board extended from 1939-1945, when he retired. In addition to his service to the university, McMurtrie also was acknowledged as an important financial mind in the state, with the Phi Kappa Psi Shield newsletter noting that:
"For many years he had corporate interests and had specialized in financial reorganizations and mergers."
   Following many decades of service to both Indiana and his alma mater, Uz McMurtrie died at age 74 on May 20, 1960. He was survived by his wife Elizabeth and son William, and was interred at the Estates of Serenity Cemetery located in Marion, Indiana.

Uz McMurtrie (second from left) at a 1941 gathering of Indiana University trustees. Picture courtesy of the Archives Photograph Collection of Indiana State University at Bloomington.

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