Thursday, March 31, 2016

Foss Oscar Eldred (1884-1956)

From the Daily Times, October 1931.

   A prominent office holder in Michigan during the first half of the 20th century, Foss Oscar Eldred served in a number of political capacities during his life, including stints as a state senator, Ionia County Prosecuting Attorney and Mayor of the city of Ionia. In addition to those offices Eldred was a Republican candidate for Congress in 1931 and in 1946 was appointed as Attorney General of Michigan. 
   Born in Lacota, Van Buren County, Michigan on March 15, 1884, Foss O. Eldred was the son of Albert and Celinda Eldred. He would attend the Albion College and the Michigan State Normal College at Ypsilanti. Eldred earned a teaching degree from the latter institution and for several years afterward taught in the Ionia area. He held the superintendency of the Lyons, Michigans school district and for four years served as principal for the State Normal College's training school. Foss Eldred married on August 7, 1907 to Ernanie Mary Olmstead (1889-1951). One son would be born to their union, Albert Ney Eldred (1920-2011), who would later follow in his father's footsteps, serving as Ionia County Prosecuting Attorney in the early 1950s.
   In the late 1900s, Foss Eldred began focusing on the study of law and was admitted to the Michigan bar in 1910. Following his admittance Eldred joined in a law partnership with Royal Hawley and Harry Gemuend, operating under the name Hawley, Eldred and Gemuend. In 1912 Eldred entered Ionia County politics for the first time, beginning a short stint as county Circuit Court Commissioner
  Eldred returned to his law practice after leaving the above-mentioned post and in November 1920 announced his candidacy for a seat in the Michigan state senate. Running to represent the 18th senatorial district, Eldred coasted to an easy victory that November, defeating Democratic nominee Edward Higbee by a vote of 14, 625 to 5, 361.
  Taking his seat at the start of the January 1921 session, Eldred was named to the following committees during this term: Education, Judiciary, State Affairs, State Hospitals and Supplies and Expenses. He won re-election to the senate in November 1922, besting Democratic nominee Amos Welch by over 2,000 votes on election day. Eldred's second senate term saw him continue service on the committee on education and also saw him sit on one new committee, that being the committee on Insurance.

A Eldred campaign notice from the Owosso Argus Times, October 5, 1931.

    Foss Eldred wasn't a candidate for a third term in 1924 and one year after leaving the senate was elected as Prosecuting Attorney for Ionia County. He would serve in that capacity from 1925-1928 and in 1931 launched a candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives. Hoping to represent Michigan's 8th congressional district, Eldred's opponent that year was Democrat Michael J. Hart (1877-1951), a former public school teacher and farmer. In a contest that pitted a "dry" prohibition candidate (Eldred) against a "wet" anti-prohibition candidate (Hart), it was the latter who triumphed in the vote count, beating the heavily favored Eldred by a vote of 25,803 to 20,641
   Eldred's political fortunes changed in 1935 when he won election as mayor of Ionia. He held that office for four years and in 1940 served as part of the Michigan delegation to the Republican National Convention being held in Philadelphia. Three years later Eldred was appointed as Deputy Attorney General of Michigan, serving under Herbert Rushton. He continued in that office until 1946, and in that year reached his highest degree of political prominence when he was appointed as Attorney General of Michigan. Eldred's appointment to that post came about due to the Republican State Convention rejecting the renomination of then Attorney General John R. Dethmers, who would later be appointed to the Michigan State Supreme Court. Eldred would serve out the remainder of Dethmer's term.
   Widowed in January 1951, Foss O. Eldred survived his wife Ernanie by five years, dying on February 17, 1956, one month short of 72nd birthday. Both Eldred and his wife were interred at the North Plains Cemetery in Ionia following their deaths.

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