Governor Roland H. Hartley appoints J. Webster Hoover as State Highway Engineer on April 1, 1925.

  • By Kit Oldham
  • Posted 1/28/2005
  • Essay 7233
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On April 1, 1925, Governor Roland H. Hartley (1864-1952) appoints J. Webster Hoover of Everett as State Highway Engineer. Many fear that the controversial and erratic governor has weakened the Highway Department by appointing the unknown Hoover to succeed James Allen, the well-respected head of the Department since 1916. But Hoover proves to be a capable and popular administrator until Hartley fires him two years later.

An Abrasive, Combative Governor

First elected in 1924, the same year Calvin Coolidge won the presidency, Hartley was well to the right even of his fellow Republican, denouncing unions and espousing an aggressive anti-tax, anti-spending policy. Abrasive and combative, Hartley feuded with most of the elected state officers (notwithstanding that they were also Republicans) and the legislature throughout his two terms in office.

Hartley appointed Hoover shortly after taking office. Although little known, Hoover quickly established himself as an able administrator and gained considerable popularity during his first year in office. Under Hoover, the Highway Department was arranged into six district offices (in Seattle, Wenatchee, Olympia, Vancouver, Yakima, and Spokane), an arrangement that the Highway and Transportation departments maintained for many years.

Hartley v. "The Cement Crowd"

Although highway supporters liked Hoover, they were soon at odds with Hartley. The governor alarmed the Good Roads movement, which he ridiculed as the "cement crowd," by calling in November 1925 for significant cutbacks in the highway program. Hoover, who evidently saw himself as a professional rather than a politician (even though the Highway Engineer served at the pleasure of the governor) took no public position on Hartley's proposal, but probably opposed the cutbacks in his department.

In 1927, gearing up for his re-election campaign the following year, Hartley again took on highway spending, slashing legislative appropriations -- many of them, coincidentally or not, in counties where he had little political support. He followed this maneuver up with "a firing rampage" (Newell, 337) in late April 1927, ousting five code department officials who were apparently insufficiently diligent in their political support for the governor and his policies. Hoover was one of the victims, fired effective April 30, 1927, just 25 months after Hartley appointed him.


Albert F. Gunns, Roland Hill Hartley and the Politics of Washington State, (M.A. Thesis, University of Washington, 1963), 100-01, 190-91; Gordon R. Newell, Rogues, Buffoons & Statesmen (Seattle : Hangman Press, 1975), 320-23, 336-37; "Forty Years With the Washington Department of Highways," p. 15, Washington State Department of Transportation website accessed October 11, 2004 (

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