Gov. George Leader: Led successful bi-partisan campaign to update Pennsylvania’s Constitution

georgeFormer Pennsylvania Governor and York County native George Leader, who died this week, also had another important item on his resume: He was part of the distinguished Glattfelder family. Here, he’s pictured, right, with fellow descendants of Casper Glattfelder, U.S. Congressman William F. Goodling, left, and Dr. Millard Gladfelter, former Temple University president, at the family’s 250th anniversary reunion in 1993. Also of interest: York native George Leader cleared Pinchot dam plan and George Leader among the luminaries with Dover ties.

George M. Leader passed away this week, and the list of his accomplishments are coming out as everyone is writing about his life and times.

One accomplishment must not be overlooked.

His role in modernize Pennsylvania’s Constitution.

So here’s a quick summary of that work, from my “Never to be Forgotten”:

1967: Ex-governors George Leader, a York County native, and William Scranton are named co-chairs of the Citizens Committee for Constitutional Revision. Gov. Raymond P. Shafer seeks bipartisan support to modernize the Constitution of 1873 into a 20th-century document. The committee gains support from Pennsylvania’s senators, manufacturers’ association, chamber of commerce, AFL-CIO and state bar. It succeeds in gaining a 240,000-vote margin from the electorate in favor of a constitutional convention. The Constitution of 1968, the operative state constitution today, results from the convention.

And here are a bio, chronology and list of accomplishments of the governor’s life, from ydr.com:

Bio box

Name: George M. Leader

Born: Jan. 17, 1918, in York County.

Married: Mary Jane Strickler, his high school sweetheart, in 1939.

Education: Attended a one-room schoolhouse in York Township and graduated from William Penn High School. Attended Gettysburg College and the University of Pennsylvania.

Military service: Served in the Pacific with the U.S. Navy during World War II.

Occupation: Chicken farmer, state Senator, governor of Pennsylvania, nursing home operator, author of inspirational poetry.

Residence: Hummelstown, outside of Hershey. He and his wife chose the area because it was close to friends and family, and it’s just a pretty area, he said.

Children and grandchildren: Three sons – Michael, David and the late Frederick Leader; a daughter, Jane Janeczek, and 11 grandchildren.

Timeline

1918: George M. Leader was born Jan. 17.

1939: After three years at Gettysburg College, Leader transferred to University of Pennsylvania, where he earned bachelor’s degree. He married Mary Jane Strickland, his high school sweetheart.

1943: Leader enters the U.S. Navy and is commissioned as an ensign aboard the aircraft carrier USS Randolph in the Pacific.

1946: Leader returns to York and establishes a chicken hatchery in Dover Township. Also that year, Leader becomes involved in politics, as secretary and later chairman of the York County Democratic Party.

1950: Leader is elected to the 28th District state Senate seat, replacing his father, who had served two terms in the Legislature.

1952: Leader runs for state treasurer. He loses.

1954: Leader is the Democrats’ long-shot candidate for governor. Defying all expectations, he wins.

1958: Leader leaves the governor’s office – the state constitution limited him to one term – and runs for the U.S. Senate, losing to Philadelphia Republican Hugh Scott.

1960: Leader opens his first nursing home in York County and soon builds a chain of nursing homes.

1982: Leader sells Leader Nursing Homes, which had grown into a chain of 24 homes. He founds the Country Meadows nursing home and builds that into a 10-campus, 3,000-bed chain.

1998: At 80, Leader turns over control of Country Meadows to his son, Michael, and starts a new company, Providence Place, which runs four nursing homes in Pennsylvania.

Accomplishments

As governor:

 

  • Leader created the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority in 1956, which was credited with attracting 71 new or expanded businesses and 12,000 jobs in its first 30 months.
  • He worked to reform state mental hospitals by reducing overcrowding and replacing warehousing with professional treatment programs.
  • He required school districts to develop special education programs for students with disabilities
  • He signed legislation to create the Fair Employment Practices Council, which evolved into the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission
  • He expanded state aid to school districts and the 14 state-owned colleges.
  • He worked to speed up the construction of the Keystone Shortway, now known as Interstate 80.
  • He created a program to establish a state park within 25 miles of every state resident. Source: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, obituary

This slideshow appears on ydr.com, along with additional extensive coverage of George Leader life.


*Top photo courtesy of the Casper Glattfelder Association of America’s 100th anniversary reunion booklet

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. East Region Editor, Digital First Media. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
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