Honoree

George North Craig

AWARDS

Honorary Degree (1953)
LL.D.
Doctor of Laws
Commencement
Location: Bloomington
Presenter: Herman B Wells
Maurer School of Law Academy of Law Alumni Fellows (1953)
Indiana University Bloomington
LL.B. 1932

BIOGRAPHY

George North Craig was the 39th Governor of Indiana from 1953 until 1957. A Republican, Craig was seen as an outsider with the more conservative party leadership during his term and is known for reforms and a bribery scandal that he was held responsible for by the public despite his lack of involvement.

An Indiana native, Craig attended University of Arizona and Indiana University, earning a LL.B. in 1932 from the latter. Craig married Kathryn Heileger in 1931, and they returned to Clay County after his law school graduation so he could practice law in his father's firm. Due to the small demand for lawyers brought upon by the Great Depression, Craig became involved in local politics and became the chairman of the Clay County Republican Party in 1938. A year later, he was appointed the attorney for his hometown of Brazil. Craig made his first attempt to run for state politics with a failed campaign for lieutenant governor in 1940.

When the United States entered World War II in 1941, he enlisted in the army as a first lieutenant in the 18th Infantry Division. Craig's division was sent to Great Britain, where they participated in the invasion of Normandy, France. Craig's leadership enabled him to rise through the ranks during the war, ultimately promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel by the time of his honorable discharge in 1946. He earned a Bronze Star Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and the Croix de Guerre for his service, especially in the liberation of France and invasion of Germany. Craig also became friends with Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower, which was an influential partnership in their later political careers.

After the war, Craig returned home to Indiana and to his father's law practice. He became involved in the American Legion and quickly became prominent on the national level, having been nominated as commander of the national organization in 1949. Craig spent fourteen months in the role, traveling around the country and establishing the organization's Tide for Toys campaign. He then went back to his law firm in December 1950, moving it to Indianapolis.

In Indianapolis, Craig secretly made efforts to begin his campaign for governor since he was considered an outsider within his own party due to his ties with Democrats during his American Legion leadership. He met with hundreds of potential convention delegates before the May election of 1951, gaining enough support to announce his intention to run for the Republican nomination. His campaign platform brought the national party's issues over their position on communism to light and openly supported President Eisenhower, which helped Craig win a landslide victory in the election.

Governor Craig's term has a reform-oriented agenda, which included enhancing workers' compensation and unemployment benefits, building a new state prison and new schools, raising teacher salaries, constructing new hospitals, and improving traffic safety. However, many of his proposals failed to pass the state legislature due to his differences with the state Republican party, but he was able to create the Department of Corrections which led to penal reform. Criag also established the Uniform Traffic Code, standardizing speed limits, road signs, and traffic laws across the state. The state police force became the largest in the nation during his term. He also led to the creation of the Mental Health Division to reform the state's mental hospitals.

In 1955, Craig was offered the position of Secretary of the Army by President Eisenhower, but he declined because he wanted to finish his term as governor. In 1956, a scandal broke out when three highway commissioners were discovered to be accepting bribes for their decisions on construction. Even though Craig was not involved in any way, Lieutenant Governor Harold Handley used it to attack and turn the public against him. The bribery scandal effectively ended his political career.

Craig moved to Virginia in 1957 and opened a law office and later became president of an auto company. He returned to Indiana ten years later to retire from public life and act as a political advisor in the Republican party. Craig passed away in Brazil, IN, on December 17, 1992.