Harold Handley Memorial Highway dedicated in LaPorte

Handley

It was a big week for the Harold Handley legacy in LaPorte. On May 8, 2017, ground was broken for a new and improved Handley Elementary School at its present location on 10th Street. And on Friday, May 12, Ind. 2 was designated as the Gov. Harold W. Handley Memorial Highway.

The state designation took place in front of First Church of God, 2020 East Lincolnway (Ind. 2). A reception followed at the LaPorte County Historical Society Museum, 2405 Indiana Ave.

The designation program included welcome and introductions by Mayor Blair Milo; opening prayer by Rev. Sally Wicks; remarks by former LaPorte Mayor Leigh Morris and state officials including Rep. James Pressel and Sen. Mike Bohacek; comments from Handley School and Handley family representatives; the unveiling by family and government officials; closing prayer offered by Rev. David Handley, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Wheaton, IL, and the late governor’s nephew; and conclusion presented by Bruce Johnson, president of the LaPorte County Historical Society.

Harold Handley was Indiana’s 40th governor, serving one term from 1957-61. Born in LaPorte in 1909, he graduated from LaPorte High School and Indiana University. He initially worked in his father’s furniture store in LaPorte, then served as a state senator and as president of the Senate before enlisting in the Army during World War II, eventually rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He was assigned to the Eighty-eighth Infantry Division headquartered in the Mojave Desert.

During his time in the Army he met Barbara Jean Winterble, a psychiatric nurse working at a Red Cross post near his base. They were married Feb. 17, 1944, and moved back to LaPorte after Handley was discharged from the Army in 1946. They had two children, Kenneth and Martha Jean.

Handley returned to politics in 1948 after winning election to his former Senate seat. In 1952, he was chosen as lieutenant governor, and in 1957, elected as governor.

As governor, probably the most controversial position Handley took was advocating a 50% increase in the state gasoline tax. The bonuses paid to soldiers, as well as the state’s school consolidation plan, had used up the budget surplus in 1956. Members of his party recommended using some of the state’s reserve fund to handle the deficit, but ultimately the tax increase was approved, earning him the nickname “High Tax Harold.”

Among his other actions as governor were expanding Purdue University to include a veterinary medical school; securing grants for land at the Lake Michigan port location; and launching the Indiana Toll Road system, using $1 billion in federal grants to begin construction.

After Handley left office in January 1961, he retired from public service and established a public relations business in Indianapolis. He also remained active in several charities that helped the mentally disabled, a passion he shared with Mrs. Handley.

Handley died Aug. 30, 1972, in Wyoming after suffering a heart attack at a resort there. He was 62. He is buried at Pine Lake Cemetery in LaPorte.

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