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Ralph F. Gates oral history

Identifier: OH020

Scope and Contents

The collection contains two copies of a transcript and a reel-to-reel audiotape of an interview with Ralph F. Gates conducted by Randall Jehs for the Indiana State Library Oral History Project on February 3, 1971. There are also clippings from 1976 to 1978.

Gates discusses his family and childhood; his political views; Indiana Republican politics and his involvement; practicing law; the Ku Klux Klan; the American Legion; and running for Governor and his term in office. He also talks about Albert Beveridge, Arch Bobbitt, Homer Capehart, Henry Schricker, Henry Wallace, James E. Watson, Wendell Willkie, and various other Indiana political figures.


  • 1971/02/03


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Legal title, copyright, and literary rights reside with Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library, Indianapolis, IN. All requests to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted to Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Biographical Note

Ralph Fesler Gates was born on February 24, 1893, in Columbia City, Indiana. His parents were Benton E. and Alice (Fesler) Gates. He received his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Michigan. After graduation, he returned home to enter his father’s law practice. On August 8, 1917, he entered the U.S. Naval Reserve as Ensign and served during World War I. He rose to the rank of Lieutenant and was head of the U.S. Navy air station in LeCroisic, France. Following the war, he married Helene Edwards, with who he had two children, Robert and Patricia.

In 1944, Gates was elected Governor of Indiana, the first Republican to hold that office since 1928. During his term, he created departments to deal with revenue problems, flood control, veteran’s affairs, and traffic safety. After leaving office in 1949, he returned to his Columbia City law practice. His son and daughter joined the practice and he remained active in the firm until 1974. Gates served one term each as Columbia City Attorney and Whitley County Attorney (appointed 1922). In addition to his legal activities, he served as Indiana Commander of the American Legion, Republican Party District Chairman (1926-1941), Chairman of the Indiana State Republican Central Committee (1941-1944), and a national committeeman of the Republican Party. He died on July 28, 1978.


Indiana Governor Ralph F. Gates. Indiana Historical Bureau. 12 May 2006.

Post, Margaret Moore. First Ladies of Indiana and The Governors, 1816-1984. Indianapolis: Pierson Printing Company, 1984.

Who’s Who and What’s What in Indiana Politics. Indianapolis: James E. Perry, 1944.


0.03 Cubic Feet (1 transcript, 1 folder, 1 reel-to-reel audiotape)

Language of Materials



This collection is arranged by format.

Custodial History

This collection was received as a donation from the Indiana State Library Oral History Project during 1971.


No further additions are expected.

Related Materials

Materials relating to this collection may be found in the following collections in Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library, Indianapolis, IN:

L634: Ralph F. Gates, Governor of Indiana collection, circa 1945-1949 S0506: Ralph F. Gates papers, 1945/09/15

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Christina Baich during May 2006. Finding aid revised by Brittany Kropf on 2015/11/04. EAD finding aid created by Bethany Fiechter on 2019/07/01. Collection reprocessing completed 2020/03/05 by Brittany Kropf. EAD finding aid revised 2020/03/05 by Brittany Kropf.


Ralph F. Gates oral history
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Repository Details

Part of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Repository

140 North Senate Avenue
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204 U.S.A.