Known for: Frank Merriam was governor of California during the later years of the Depression.
Background: An Iowa native, he served in his home state's legislature and as state auditor. He moved to California at age 45 and served in the Assembly and Senate before becoming lieutenant governor. He ascended to the top spot when Gov. James Rolph died near the end of his term in June 1934. Two years earlier, California had gone Democratic in supporting Franklin D. Roosevelt for president. But Republicans managed to elect Merriam as governor in a 1934 race that pitted him against socialist Upton Sinclair, a controversial Democratic nominee, and retain control of state government. As governor, Merriam waged a war against corrupt lobbyists and appointed a committee to investigate them.
A highlight: Merriam was California's ninth consecutive Republican governor, a streak that lasted from 1899 to 1938. He was defeated by Democrat Culbert Olson. Merriam was also the first governor to marry in office.
In History's Spotlight profiles of Sacramento newsmakers were published originally in 2007 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of The Sacramento Bee. They were written by Anthony Sorci. Look for them every Sunday in Sac History Happenings.