About AG > History > Timeline
Early Years and Statehood: 1787–1850
1787: The Confederation Congress passes the Northwest Ordinance and names General Arthur St. Clair the Territorial Governor.
June 16, 1795: The earliest reference to an Attorney General in the region appears in a Congressional Act that provides for the Northwest Territory to be represented by an Attorney General before the General Court of the Territory. The act also sets fees to be paid to the Attorney General, including 62 cents for court motions, $5 for criminal cases, and $8 for capital cases.
1799: Paul Fearing is named Attorney General for the Northwest Territory.
1803: President Thomas Jefferson signs legislation declaring Ohio the 17th state in the union.
1812: Ohio legislators vote to create the city of Columbus (named for Christopher Columbus) to serve as the state capital after political infighting led them to move the capital from Chillicothe to Zanesville and back again during the state’s early years.
1813: Under the command of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, the American fleet defeats the British fleet in the Battle of Lake Erie, contributing to Americans’ victory in the War of 1812.
1835: A boundary dispute between Ohio and Michigan leads to the Toledo War, a nearly bloodless conflict resolved through compromise the following year.
Feb. 16, 1846: The Ohio General Assembly creates the position of Attorney General, to be appointed by the Governor for a five-year term. The officeholder is to advise county prosecutors, compile crime statistics, and collect overdue corporate taxes.
Feb. 25, 1846: Legislators name Henry Stanbery, a Fairfield County attorney, Ohio’s first Attorney General. A member of the Whig Party, Stanbery later was appointed U.S. Attorney General.
April 6, 1846: Attorney General Stanbery opens the first Ohio Attorney General’s Office, located in Columbus.
April 7, 1846: Attorney General Stanbery issues the first opinion of the new office, advising the Harrison County Prosecuting Attorney that a person’s acquisition of beds or bedding is not subject to taxation under state law.
April 29, 1846: Attorney General Stanbery files suit against former members of the Board of Public Works for failure to file bonds required by their positions as public officials. Filed in Franklin County, the suits were the first brought by an Ohio Attorney General.
Feb. 3, 1849: The Attorney General advises the Columbiana County Prosecuting Attorney that local officials charged with carrying out a state law may not refuse to do so based on their view that the law is unconstitutional. Members of the New Lisbon council had refused to regulate schools. “All I need to say is, that [the law] ought to be obeyed until it is declared to be unconstitutional by the proper tribunal,” the Attorney General wrote.
1849: The Ohio General Assembly changes the position of Attorney General to a statewide elected office, effective at the end of Stanbery’s term.
1850: The first Ohio State Fair opens in Cincinnati.
American Civil War: 1851–1865
1851: Ohio’s second constitution calls for the Attorney General to be elected to a two-year term and to serve as part of the executive branch.
February 1861, Kentucky v. Dennison: The U.S. Supreme Court decides it could not compel Ohio Gov. William Dennison Jr. to surrender to Kentucky officials a free African-American man from Ohio who helped a Kentucky slave escape. Ohio Attorney General Christopher Wolcott had advised the Governor that Ohio did not have to turn in its citizens for actions not considered a crime in Ohio.
1862: President Abraham Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation.
1863: Confederate General John Hunt Morgan leads Morgan’s Raid through the Ohio Valley, prompting the only Civil War battle on Ohio soil.
1865: Attorney General William Richardson resigns to accept the post of Commander of the military prison at Camp Chase in Columbus.
April 29, 1865: President Lincoln lies in state at the Ohio Statehouse following his assassination on April 14. Thousands of Ohioans visit to pay their respects.
Industrialization and Urbanization: 1866–1900
Nov. 16, 1868: In an insightful opinion, the Attorney General advises the Ohio Governor that the General Assembly can enact a voter registration law to facilitate the investigation and detection of election fraud and illegalities. Anticipating objections tied to the cost of implementation, Attorney General William West observed that “the purity of the ballot box, which it would secure, would be compensated a thousand fold.”
1869: The Cincinnati Red Stockings form, becoming the nation’s first fully professional baseball team. On July 2, 1869, the team plays the Cleveland Forest Citys, Cleveland’s first professional baseball team.
1876, State v. Central Ohio Mutual Relief Association: To address insurance companies’ practice of issuing their customers life insurance policies covering strangers for the sole purpose of benefiting the customers if the strangers died, legislators ban the practice in 1872 and establish the Department of Insurance to regulate the industry. Attorney General John Little sues Central Ohio Mutual Relief Association four years later for disregarding the law and wins an Ohio Supreme Court decision prohibiting the firm from doing business in Ohio.
1891, Thompson v. Watson: In a case highlighting separation of power, the Ohio Supreme Court rules it could not compel Attorney General Watson to challenge the constitutionality of a state law because such decisions rest with the Attorney General. At issue was a new election law that addressed voting by secret or “Australian” ballot, which an Ohio voter had implored Watson to challenge.
1900, State ex rel. Monnett v. Ohio Oil: In the first Ohio Supreme Court case challenging the state’s 2-year-old antitrust law, Attorney General Frank Monnett succeeds in proving several oil refineries are illegally fixing prices and monopolizing the industry. The refineries claim the law is unconstitutional, arguing they should have the right to control their own property.
The Age of Progress: 1901–1928
1901: The Attorney General’s Office moves to the Ohio Justice Building, today referred to as the Senate Building of the Ohio Statehouse.
1903: Ohioans Orville and Wilbur Wright complete the first successful airplane flight.
1903–1909: Attorney General Ellis compiles and indexes the opinions the Ohio Attorney General issued from 1846 to 1904.
1904: The Ohio General Assembly reorganizes the Attorney General’s Office into its current structure, establishing the position of First Assistant Attorney General and consolidating the legal counsel of state agencies into the Attorney General’s Office. By 1905, the office consists of 10 sections focusing on these matters: Governor and Trustees of State Institutions; Secretary of State; State Auditor and State Treasurer; Public Works, Highways and Agriculture; General Criminal Business; Dairy and Food; Health and Medical; Insurance; Common Schools and Universities; and Miscellaneous (Labor, Mines, Railroads).
1910: The General Assembly forms a bipartisan committee to investigate corruption in Ohio government. Twelve members of the General Assembly are indicted by Attorney General Ulysses Denman for receiving money to influence their votes on bills pending before the legislature.
1910: The Ohio Attorney General’s Office creates a library as a resource for its staff.
1911: Attorney General Timothy Hogan increases his staff’s work week from 30 hours to 37.5 hours in response to an increasing workload.
1914–1918: World War I draws 70 million combatants into battle. Thousands of Ohioans serve in the war, which the United States enters in 1917.
1917–1919: Ohio enacts workers’ compensation laws, giving the Attorney General responsibility to collect premiums from employers and enforce workers’ claim awards. The Attorney General also gains the authority to collect nearly all state claims, whereas previously the office collected only delinquent corporation taxes for the state.
1918: At the height of the “trust-busting” era, Attorney General Joseph McGhee advises that the actions of a milk producers’ association violate the Valentine Act, Ohio’s version of the federal Sherman Anti-Trust Law, and point to the need for a grand jury investigation. The association had sought to corner the market on milk by trying to compel an independent milk dealers to accept all milk offered by association members and none from non-member producers.
1919, Hebe Co. v. Shaw: In the midst of a national push to regulate food products for quality and safety, Ohio lawmakers enact a ban on condensed skim milk products. To avoid criminal prosecution, Hebe claims it has a constitutional right under the Commerce Clause to sell a product that combined condensed skim milk with coconut oil. The U.S. Supreme Court agrees with Attorney General Joseph McGhee and upholds the law because it was intended to protect consumers from fraud and unhealthy products.
1921: The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, not yet part of the Attorney General’s Office, is created and housed at the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus.
1922: Addressing the issue of child labor, which state and federal courts were beginning to scrutinize in the first quarter of the 20th century, Attorney General John Price issues an opinion concerning the practice of employing children ages 6 to 15 in Ohio onion fields during their summer break from school. The Attorney General advises the Ohio Department of Industrial Relations that state law prohibits having the children work more than four hours per day or 24 hours per week, and then only if the work is not confining and does not require continuous physical strain.
1923–1927: Ohio Attorney General Charles C. Crabbe authors several law enforcement measures to enforce Prohibition.
1928, State ex rel. Turner v. Albin: Attorney General Edward Turner prosecutes several men who changed their bar exam scores in their quest to become attorneys and also brought charges against current and former court employees involved in the fraud. The Ohio Supreme Court, emphasizing that the practice of law requires good moral character, found all of the men guilty.
The Great Depression and World War II: 1929–1945
1929–1941: The Depression devastates Ohio’s economy. By 1933, more than 40 percent of factory workers and 67 percent of construction workers are unemployed.
1930: A fire kills 322 inmates at the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus, which houses the Bureau of Criminal Investigation. The Department of Corrections moves BCI to the London Penitentiary, west of Columbus.
1931, State ex rel. Hubbell v. Bettman: Attorney General Gilbert Bettman declines to certify a proposed constitutional amendment and summary after finding the proposal contains multiple, unrelated issues and that the summary does not fairly and truthfully describe the proposed amendment. The submitter sought a court order requiring the measure be placed on the ballot, but the Ohio Supreme Court ruled it was within the Attorney General’s purview to reject the submissions. Today, the Attorney General remains responsible for reviewing proposed statewide measures and ballot language.
1935: State officials institute Ohio’s first sales tax.
1936: Clevelander Jesse Owens wins four gold medals in track and field at the Summer Olympic Games in Berlin.
1937, Ohio Bell Telephone Co. v. Public Utilities Commission of Ohio: After merging with the Ohio State Telephone Co., Ohio Bell files new rate schedules with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. The PUCO rules that pre-set rates must be partially refunded because of the Great Depression’s effect on the economy. In deciding the refund amount, the PUCO relies on documents not in the official record. While Attorney General Herbert Duffy argues that those documents are reliable, the U.S. Supreme Court holds that such commissions must base decisions on properly admitted evidence so that parties such as Ohio Bell have an opportunity to challenge their findings.
1941–1945: World War II grips the United States. Nearly 840,000 Ohioans serve in the armed forces, roughly 12 percent of the state’s population.
1943: The U.S. activates the Ohio National Guard facility Camp Perry near Port Clinton as a primary prisoner of war location. More than 2,500 German and 2,000 Italian POWs are confined at the camp during World War II.
The Cold War and Civil Rights Movement: 1946–1975
1950s: The Ohio Attorney General’s Office establishes a presence in Cleveland, marking its first effort to expand outside of Columbus.
1950: North Korea invades South Korea, marking the start of the Korean War that continues until 1953.
1953: Correcting an oversight, Congress passes a resolution officially recognizing Ohio’s statehood and declaring Ohio’s date of entry into the Union as March 1, 1803.
1953: The General Assembly designates the Ohio Buckeye, Aesculus glabra, as Ohio’s state tree.
1953, Superior Films Inc. v. Dept. of Education: The Ohio Supreme Court upholds Ohio’s film censorship laws after three filmmakers file a lawsuit claiming the laws violated their right to free speech. Attorney General William O’Neill successfully argues that censorship based on the immoral nature of a film is permitted. However, the U.S. Supreme Court later reverses the decision and finds the law unconstitutional.
1954: The Ohio General Assembly increases the Attorney General’s term from two to four years.
1955–1975: The Vietnam War rages in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, claiming the lives of millions of soldiers and civilians. The United States is engaged from 1964 to 1974.
1955: Attorney General C. William O’Neill’s investigation into drug trafficking leads Ohio to develop a model narcotics control bill containing some of the strictest penalties in the country.
1959: The General Assembly sponsors a contest to select a state motto. Twelve-year-old James Mastronardo submits the winning entry — “With God All Things Are Possible” — a quotation from the Bible.
1963: BCI becomes part of the Attorney General’s Office.
1965: The Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission is established to oversee training requirements for peace officers, private security, local corrections, jail personnel, bailiffs, humane agents, and public defender investigators.
1966, Sheppard v. Maxwell: The U.S. Supreme Court overturns the murder conviction of Cleveland area physician Sam Sheppard, determining that flagrant misconduct by the media and public officials denied him a fair trial. Convicted of murdering his pregnant wife, Sheppard serves a decade in prison before being granted a new trial, at which he was acquitted. His story is said to be the basis for the television show “The Fugitive.”
1968: Attorney General William Saxbe issues an opinion to the Wood County Prosecuting Attorney stating that a tear-gas gun or similar device, which can temporarily incapacitate someone but not cause great bodily harm, is not a dangerous weapon and can be lawfully carried in a concealed fashion. Wood County is home to Bowling Green State University, and anti-war protests were common on campus and in downtown Bowling Green in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
1969: Ohioan Neil Armstrong becomes the first person to walk on the moon.
1969, Brandenburg v. Ohio: The U.S. Supreme Court issues a landmark decision based on the First Amendment, holding that the government cannot punish even inflammatory speech unless it is likely to incite imminent lawless action. In this case, Ohio Attorney General Paul Brown had sought to uphold the conviction of a Ku Klux Klan leader convicted for voicing his belief in the need for violence to accomplish political reform.
1970: Ohio National Guard troops kill four Kent State University students during an anti-Vietnam War protest.
1973, Michigan v. Ohio and Ohio v. Kentucky: The U.S. Supreme Court settles two disputes involving Ohio’s underwater borders. It determines the boundary line between Ohio and Michigan running under Lake Erie runs from a point in the Maumee Bay, through Turtle Island, and continues to the international boundary line between the United States and Canada. It also confirms that the boundary line between Ohio and Kentucky is at the low water mark on Ohio’s side of the Ohio River, as it existed when Kentucky became a state in 1792.
1974: The Ohio Attorney General’s Office moves to the James A. Rhodes State Office Tower.
Modern-day Ohio: 1976–2012
1976: The Ohio Attorney General’s Office opens the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy in London to provide advanced training to Ohio law enforcement officers.
1983: The Attorney General establishes a regional office in Cincinnati.
1990–91: Thousands of Ohioans are mobilized as part of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Ohioans also mobilize to support NATO operations in Bosnia.
1992: The Attorney General opens a regional office in Toledo.
1995: Betty Montgomery becomes the first woman to serve as Ohio Attorney General.
1995: BCI opens a regional office in Bowling Green.
1995, Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board v. Pinette: After the Ku Klux Klan seeks a permit to place a cross on the front lawn of the Ohio Statehouse, the U.S. Supreme Court rules private parties can place religious displays on Capitol Square since it had a history of being used as a public forum. Displays such as crosses, menorahs, and Christmas trees are protected by the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech, and even when placed in front of a public building, do not qualify as a government endorsement or establishment of religion.
1996: Attorney General Betty Montgomery determines that a college professor’s offer of extra credit to his students who voted in that year’s general election was a violation of state law since Ohio election law prohibits offering something of value as an inducement to vote or to vote in a particular way.
1997: Considering that state law grants a county sheriff power to preserve the public peace throughout the entire county in which he serves, Attorney General Montgomery advises that a sheriff may declare a snow emergency and temporarily close state roads and municipal streets when such action is reasonably necessary to preserve the public peace
1997–2003, DeRolph v. State: The Ohio Supreme Court rules the state’s method of funding public schools violates the Ohio Constitution’s requirement to provide sufficient funds for a “thorough and efficient system of common schools throughout the state” and orders in 1997 that the system be overhauled. Despite increased funding, the court again declares the approach unconstitutional in 2000 and 2002. The court terminates litigation in the case in 2003, allowing the legislature to attempt an overhaul of the funding formula. No new litigation has been filed, and the issue remains largely unresolved.
1998: BCI opens a regional office in Youngstown.
1998, Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement: Ohio and 46 other states and U.S. territories sign a Master Settlement Agreement with the nation’s biggest tobacco companies. Ohio receives 5 percent of the proceeds, the fourth-largest share among the settling states. The settlement allows the states to recoup huge expenditures related to tobacco-related diseases; forces the tobacco industry to stop marketing to minors; and advances various public health measures, such as education about the harmful effects of tobacco use.
1999: BCI headquarters move into a new state-of-the-art facility in London. The 122,000-square-foot facility is three times the size of the former facility and includes an advanced forensic laboratory that occupies more than half the building.
2001: The 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa., claim nearly 3,000 victims, leading to homeland security measures throughout the nation. In the aftermath, U.S. troops — including many Ohioans — volunteer to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.
2001: BCI opens a regional office in Richfield.
2001, ACLU v. Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board: When plans were announced to replicate the State Seal and Motto in bronze at the Statehouse, Attorney General Betty Montgomery defends the motto, “With God, All Things Are Possible,” against a claim that it violates the First Amendment. The court — citing the national motto, “In God We Trust,” and a long line of similar sentiments expressed by government — upholds the state’s right to have such a motto.
2006: Ohio voters pass a ballot measure banning smoking in indoor public places.
2007: The Attorney General’s Office opens a regional office in Youngstown.
2011: BCI opens a regional office in Athens.
2012: The Ohio Attorney General’s Office, in conjunction with the federal government and 48 other state attorneys general, announces a $25 billion federal-state agreement with the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers. Ohioans receive $330 million in mortgage relief under the settlement.
2013: BCI opens a regional office in Cambridge.