C. Ben Ross
|15th Governor of Idaho|
January 5, 1931 - January 4, 1937
|Lieutenant||G. P. Mix|
George E. Hill
G. P. Mix
|H. C. Baldridge|
|Barzilla W. Clark|
Charles Benjamin Ross
December 27, 1876
Parma, Idaho Territory
|Died||March 31, 1946 (aged 69)|
|Spouse(s)||Edna May Reavis|
Charles Benjamin Ross (December 27, 1876 - March 31, 1946) was the first Idaho-born Governor of Idaho and an important Idaho political figure throughout the 1930s. Ross served as governor from 1931 until 1937.
One of eight children, Ross was born to cattleman, John M. Ross, and his wife, Jeanette, near Parma, Idaho. He left school after grade six, but at age eighteen, he decided to continue his education and graduated from Portland Commercial College. In 1897 he returned to the family ranch and co-managed it with his brother, W. H. Ross. He married Edna Reavis on February 14, 1900, and together they raised four foster children.
Ross began his political career in Canyon County, serving as county commissioner from 1915 to 1921. He moved to Bannock County and served as mayor of Pocatello from 1922 to 1930. He won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 1928. Although he nearly tripled the Democratic vote total of his predecessor, Asher B. Wilson, thanks to the recent demise of the Idaho Progressive Party, he was defeated by the Republican incumbent H. C. Baldridge.
Ross won the nomination again in 1930, winning the open seat against Republican John McMurray. His wife, Edna, was a natural politician and a great asset to Ross. She was often referred to as "Governor Edna" while he held that office. He was reelected in 1932 and 1934, becoming the first person to win election as Governor of Idaho three times. During his tenure as governor Ross was viewed as the chief proponent of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal policies in Idaho. Even so, his own beliefs more closely mirrored the agrarian populism of earlier Democrats such as William Jennings Bryan.
The first sales tax in Idaho was enacted in 1935 with Ross' support. A famous line used against Ross by sales tax opponents was "A Penny for Benny." A driver's license law was instituted and legislation was initiated which would make liquor sales regulated through state distributors. Ross ran for United States Senate in 1936 but was defeated by longtime Republican incumbent William E. Borah. Opponents also used the following poem against him: "Benny got our penny/Benny got our goat/We'll get our Benny/When we go to vote." The sales tax was repealed after a statewide referendum in 1936.
In 1938 Ross ran for governor a fifth time, defeating incumbent Barzilla W. Clark in the Democratic primary but losing to state Republican Party chairman C. A. Bottolfsen in the general election. After losing the 1938 gubernatorial election, "Cowboy Ben" retired from public life. He is referred to as "Founding Father" of the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation and was looked to as a champion of the Idaho Democratic Party.
Ross died on March 31, 1946, and is interred at Parma Cemetery, Parma, Canyon County, Idaho US.