Recalling Greene County’s political and elections history

Historical Society meets at Scranton on Nov. 2
usa.gov photo

~by Chuck Offenburger for the Greene County Historical Society

Brothers Rick and Tom Morain will discuss “Greene County Politics Thru The Years: The Pendulum Always Swings” when the Greene County Historical Society meets Friday, Nov. 2, at the United Methodist Church in Scranton.

Rick Morain, who lives in Jefferson, is the retired editor and publisher of the Jefferson Bee & Herald, now writing a weekly “Greenery” column for the Jefferson Herald.

Tom Morain lives in Lamoni in south central Iowa and is a community outreach representative for Graceland University there. He formerly directed Living History Farms, then was administrator of the State Historical Society of Iowa. He is recognized as one of Iowa’s leading historians, and in 2009, the state historical society honored him with its highest designation, the Harlan/Petersen Award for Lifetime Service to Iowa History.

The Morain brothers say their love of local history – including government and politics – traces to boyhood when they’d often open bound volumes of the Bee & Herald newspapers on the ping-pong table of their Jefferson home and read for hours.

After graduating from JHS, Rick in 1959 and Tom in 1965, they went to Graceland when it was a 2-year college, then completed their undergraduate degrees at the University of Iowa. Both went on to earn doctorates, Rick at Yale University and Tom at the U of I, both in American studies.

Three years ago, they co-taught an online Iowa history course for Graceland, and had students enrolled from private colleges across the state.

Rick said both brothers are “probably center-left” on the political spectrum today. In the 1960s and ’70s, Rick was an active Republican “in the Bob Ray wing of the party,” and even served as county Republican chairperson and a member of the state GOP Central Committee. Tom said he hasn’t been as directly involved in politics, although he did some volunteer work for Common Cause, the non-partisan, pro-democracy advocacy group.

“As far as our knowledge of politics and elections in the county, Tom learned it in a much more scholarly way, with oral histories and extensive research,” Rick said. “I’ve kind of lived Greene County political history, with all my time with the newspapers.”

He added their Nov. 2 program “will be more anecdotal than scholarly.”
Would he give us a quick snapshot of the county’s electoral history?

“In general, Greene County has tended to vote with the winner over the years,” Rick said. “So it’s kind of a bellwether, but not as accurate as, say, Palo Alto County usually has been.” He said there is also a “balance” in the county, without any single dominating ethnic group or church denomination, so political leanings are more spread across the spectrum.

There’ll be an $8 lunch at the church in Scranton at 12 noon, with RSVPs for members due with their community contacts by midday Wednesday, Oct. 31. Members of the public who want to eat lunch for $10 should phone vice-president Nancy Hanaman at 515-436-7684. The 1 pm program at the church is free and all are invited.

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