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Former Ohio Governor, Rhodes, Dies

March 4, 2001

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ Former Gov. James A. Rhodes, whose decision to quell an anti-war protest by sending National Guard troops to Kent State University in 1970 resulted in four deaths, died Sunday. He was 91.

Rhodes, the state’s only four-term governor, died at 2:45 p.m. at Ohio State University Medical Center from complications from an infection and heart failure, said David Crawford, a hospital spokesman.

The son of a coal miner, Rhodes rose from poverty to become Columbus mayor when he was only 33. The election marked the beginning of a career in politics that spanned nearly 50 years.

Rhodes was credited with bringing many industries to Ohio. During his administrations, the state built highways, expanded the university system and put an airport in almost every county.

A college dropout, he also was credited with making Ohio a leader in vocational education.

But the Kent State shootings cast an indelible shadow on his career.

On May 2, 1970, he decided to send the National Guard to Kent State, which, like campuses across the nation, was in turmoil over the incursion into Cambodia during the Vietnam War. Protesters had vandalized businesses in downtown Kent and the campus ROTC building was burned.

On May 4, four students were killed and nine wounded when troops opened fire. The reason behind the shooting was never fully learned.

Lawsuits against Rhodes and other officials ended in January 1979, when the victims’ families agreed to settlements totaling $675,000.

Those close to him said he was saddened by the tragedy but blamed the turbulence of the war era and believed his action was necessary. Already that year there had been three riots on Ohio campuses.

``The Kent State call came from the merchants and county commissioners because of the conditions that were existing the night before,″ Rhodes said years later. ``You see, it was a consensus.″

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