Harry Augustus Garfield (1863-1942)

Williams College President 1908-1934

Harry Augustus Garfield was born on Oct. 11, 1863 in Hiram, Ohio. In 1880, his father, James A. Garfield, was elected president of the United States. Harry and his brother James were acccompanying their father to his Williams class reunion when President Garfield was shot at the Washington train station on July 2, 1881. The brothers entered Williams on Sept. 5, 1881, just two weeks before their father died.

At Williams, Garfield was a member of Alpha Delta Phi, the Philologian Society, Glee Club, church choir, and the Athenaeum writing staff. He graduated in 1885 and went on to study law at Columbia Law School, spending his second year reading law at All Soul's College in Oxford and the Inns Court in London.

Garfield returned to Ohio in 1888 to practice law with his brother in Cleveland. In the same year he married Belle Mason. They had four children: James in 1889, Mason in 1892, Lucretia in 1894, and Stanton in 1895. During these years, Garfield was professor of contracts at Western Reserve Law School and very active in the Cleveland community.

From 1900-1906 Garfield served as president of the National Consular Reorganization Committee, which worked to abolish political patronage in consular appointments. In 1903 Woodrow Wilson appointed him professor of politics at Princeton University.

In 1908 Garfield was inducted as the eighth president of Williams College. Garfield served as chairman of the Price Committee of the U.S. Food Administration in 1917 and took a leave of absence from 1917-1919 to serve as fuel administrator of the U.S. Fuel Administration, regulating the production, price, and distribution of coal during World War I. Garfield was presented with the Distinguished Service Medal in 1921.

Garfield oversaw the eleven-year life of the Institute of Politics at Williams from 1921-1932. He retired in June 1934 and embarked on a one-year round-the-world trip with Belle.

The Garfields returned to the U.S. in 1935, settling in Washington, D.C., where Garfield spent his time studying international problems. The Garfields continued to summer in Williamstown and Duxbury.

Garfield re-entered the national arena briefly in 1941, accepting an appointment to the War Department Defense Board, a 14-member board studying the Excess Profits Law during World War II. On Dec. 12, 1942, Garfield died of natural causes at the Williamstown Inn.