History of Iowa From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century/4/John P. Irish

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[John P. Irish]

JOHN P. IRISH was born in Iowa City on the 1st of January, 1843. He received a common school education but at the early age of seventeen had made such progress as to become a teacher. When he had reached the age of twenty-one he assumed the editorial management of the Iowa City Press and developed such ability both as a writer and public speaker that he was soon recognized as one of the leaders of the Democratic party of the State. In 1887 he was elected to represent Johnson County in the House of the Eleventh General Assembly and was twice reëlected, serving six years. He had, as a teacher, seen the harm of electing members of school boards on a partisan ticket, and was the author of the law changing the time of electing school officers from the general to a special election, thus taking their election out of partisan politics. His bill also authorized the directors to choose a president outside of their own number. This salutary change in the law destroyed the partisan character of school boards. The reform was commended by the National Commissioner of Education and is referred to at length by Professor Parker in his “History of the Public School System of Iowa.” While a member of the Legislature Mr. Irish secured an addition to the endowment fund of the State University and having been elected one of the regents of that institution, was largely instrumental in securing the establishment of the Law and Medical Departments. In 1868 Mr. Irish was the Democratic candidate for Congress in the Fourth District but the Republican majority was too large to be overcome. In 1877 he was nominated by the Democratic State Convention for Governor and made a vigorous campaign but was defeated by Governor Gear. Mr. Irish was long one of the trustees of the Soldiers' Orphans' Home. He removed to California, where he was for many years president of the board of directors of the State Home of the Adult Blind of which institution he was one of the founders. In 1896 Mr. Irish was one of the National leaders in organizing the political movement which resulted in the formation of the “Gold Standard” Democracy, which separated from the regular, or Bryan Democratic party, and supported another candidate for President. He was actively engaged in the campaign as a public speaker in several States and was a member of the executive committee of the Monetary Congress organized in 1897 to promote the permanent establishment of the gold standard. In 1894 Mr. Irish was appointed Naval Officer of Customs at San Francisco, which position he held at the close of the Nineteenth Century.