1898 John Rutter Brooke
First military governor under U.S. rule. He was named governor and general commander of Puerto Rico by Republican President William McKinley after the departure from the island of General Nelson A. Miles, who commanded the military campaign of the U.S. invasion. Brooke arrived in Puerto Rico in the town of Arroyo on July 31, 1898, six days after the invasion began. With few changes, he maintained the autonomous government that had been established on the island before the U.S. invasion. After his short time in power (October 18 to December 6, 1898), he was sent to Cuba to serve as commander of the military department.
1898-1899 Guy Vernor Henry
Second military governor of Puerto Rico. He was named governor and general commander of Puerto Rico by Republican President William McKinley. During the U.S. invasion, he was commander of the Ponce district. During his term as governor of the island, he dissolved the autonomous government. The island would be ruled by four departments, Interior, Treasury, State and Justice. His government was also characterized by obligatory vaccination for smallpox, the creation of the island police, the reduction of the work day to eight hours, the recognition of civil marriage, and the legalization of divorce, which was controversial for a mostly Catholic population.
1899-1900 George Whitefield Davis
Last military governor under U.S. rule. He was named by President William McKinley. Prior to his term in office, Davis, a brigadier general, worked on the construction of the Panama Canal and served as governor of the Canal Zone. He put an end to the seditious parties in the interior of the island, established the island Board of Education and Prisons Board, implemented a U.S.-style educational system and established the right of habeas corpus, the right of a citizen to appear immediately before a judge to determine if the citizen’s arrest is lawful.
1900- 1901 Charles H. Allen
First civil governor of Puerto Rico under the Foraker Act of 1900. Allen was named by President William McKinley. He previously served as a Republican legislator in the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington and as Secretary of the Navy during the Spanish-American War. During his term in office, the electric trolley from San Juan to Río Piedras was established.
1901-1904 William H. Hunt
Civil governor named by President William McKinley. Previously, he was secretary of the island’s civil government and presided over the Executive Council. During his incumbency, part of the land of Cabras island was transferred to the U.S. Navy. He resigned when Vice President Theodore Roosevelt rose to the U.S. presidency after the death of William McKinley. Upon returning to the United States, he served as a federal judge.
1904-1907 Beekman Winthrop
One of the youngest governors Puerto Rico has had. He was 30 years old when he was named by Republican President Theodore Roosevelt. Previously, Winthrop was the personal secretary to William Howard Taft (who later became president of the United States) during Taft’s term as governor of the Philippines. During Winthrop’s term as governor, President Roosevelt visited Puerto Rico. During his term, he approved an executive order that prohibited any employee of the island government from having any interest, direct or indirect, in any contract or agreement made with the Puerto Rico government.
1907-1909 Regis H. Post
Named governor by Republican President Theodore Roosevelt. Prior to his appointment, Post was auditor and secretary of Puerto Rico during the Winthrop administration. During Post’s incumbency, there was a budget crisis in 1909, which led the federal government to approve the Olmsted Act. It stipulated that if the Puerto Rico Legislature did not reach agreement on the assignment of government funds, the previous year’s budget could be used.
1909-1913 George Radcliffe Colton
Named governor by Republican President William Howard Taft. Previously he was part of the First Nebraska Infantry Regiment during the Spanish-American War. He also served as lieutenant colonel of his regiment in the Philippines and director of customs for those islands, as well as Santo Domingo. During his governorship, he supported the extension of U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans. He converted a modest home in the Jájome area of Cayey into the official summer home of the governor. He resigned when Democrat Woodrow Wilson assumed the presidency.
1913-1921 Arthur Yager
Named governor by Democratic President Woodrow Wilson, who was his classmate at Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. Congress approved the Jones Act (1917) during his administration. He established a juvenile court and approved the sale of public land to workers. He implemented measures to improve the health conditions on the island, including the establishment of the Department of Health and the fight against tuberculosis. Yager resigned when Republican Warren G. Harding assumed the presidency.
1921-1923 Emmet Montgomery Reily
Named governor by Republican President Warren G. Harding. Reily served as campaign manager for Harding in the western United States in the 1920 national elections. Upon assuming office as governor, he replaced many of the politicians who favored independence. He is considered one of the least popular U.S. governors.
1923-1929 Horace Mann Towner
Named governor by Republican President Warren G. Harding. Previously he was a member of the U.S. Congress and presided over the Insular Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives. His incumbency was characterized by the construction of a great number of public works projects, such as the system of aqueducts in various sectors, the irrigation system in Isabela, the School of Tropical Medicine building in Puerta de Tierra and the penitentiary. He also implemented a retirement law for public employees and a new tax law.
1929-1932 Theodore Roosevelt Jr.
Named governor by Republican President Herbert Hoover. He was the son of former President Theodore Roosevelt. Previously he was sub-secretary of the Navy and a candidate for governor in New York. In 1932, he was named governor of the Philippines by President Herbert Hoover. He was very popular among the Puerto Ricans because of his respect for the island’s culture. During his incumbency, he made budget adjustments that helped Puerto Rico overcome the economic crisis caused by the hurricane that had hit the island in 1928.
1932-1933 James R. Beverly
Named governor by Republican President Herbert Hoover when Roosevelt was transferred to be governor of the Philippines. Previously, Beverly served as legal counsel to the Puerto Rico Public Service Commission, as an official of the Justice Department, and as prosecutor for the island from 1928 to 1931. Various measures were approved during his administration, including the establishment of the Puerto Rico Bar Association and a law that criminalized the importation, cultivation or sale of marijuana. At the end of his term, he continued to live on the island and worked as a lawyer. He was the only U.S. governor who spoke Spanish.
1933-1934 Robert Hayes Gore
Named governor by Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Previously, Gore, a businessman in the publishing and insurance industries, actively participated in the presidential campaign of F.D. Roosevelt in the state of Florida. He was a believer in U.S. statehood for the island and approved laws that allowed cockfighting and the Puerto Rico lottery.
1934-1939 Blanton Winship
Named governor by Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Earlier, he served as a captain in the Spanish-American War and World War I. He was a member of the advisory committee for revising the laws of Cuba, legal counsel to the governor of the Philippines, and a member of the Liberation Issues Committee of the League of Nations. Winship approved laws on workers pay, minimum pay for women, and normalization of working hours for agricultural workers, and he implemented birth control programs. During his governorship, various confrontations occurred with political groups. The most significant was the Ponce Massacre of 1937.
1939-1940 William D. Leahy
Named governor by Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Leahy assumed the governorship after he retired as an admiral in the U.S. Navy. At the end of his time in office in Puerto Rico, he was named U.S ambassador to France. During his administration, he supervised the construction of military bases in Puerto Rico and dedicated himself to addressing social conditions on the island, particularly unemployment.
1941 Guy J. Swope
Named interim governor of Puerto Rico by Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Previously he was U.S. Congressman and the auditor of Puerto Rico. Following his short time in office, he became director of the Insular Territories and Possessions Division of the U.S. Department of the Interior. During his governorship, he approved laws that established the minimum wage, created the Water Authority and the Tax Court of Appeals, and implemented the safe home protection law and agrarian reform, among others.
1941-1946 Rexford G. Tugwell
Last U.S. governor, named by Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Previously he came to Puerto Rico to study the state of agriculture on the island and later served as chancellor at the University of Puerto Rico. During his incumbency, he implemented the New Deal and approved various laws related to workers’ rights, industrial and agricultural development of the island, public education, stabilization of prices, and other issues.
Sarramía, Tomás. Los Gobernadores de Puerto Rico 1493-1993, San Juan, Ediciones Puerto, 1993.
Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 11, 2014.
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