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John Milan Ashbrook was born on September 21, 1928, in Johnstown, Ohio to William A. Ashbrook, a newspaper editor, businessman, and U.S. representative, and Marie Swank. After graduating from Harvard University in 1952, and from Ohio State University's law school in 1955, Ashbrook became the publisher of his father's newspaper, the Johnstown Independent. On July 3, 1948, he married Joan Needels and later had three children with her before they divorced in 1971. In 1974, he remarried to Jean Spencer.
He was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives in 1956, and served two terms. In 1960, the seat that his father held in the House of Representatives was vacated and Ashbrook ran for and won it.
Ashbrook competed in the New Hampshire (9.8% of the vote), Florida (9%), and California (10%) primaries. He withdrew from the race after the California primary and "with great reluctance" supported Nixon. His campaign, although of minimal immediate impact, is remembered fondly by conservatives who admire Ashbrook for having stood for their principles. Ashbrook said in criticism of the Nixon administration,"I still believe it in the best American tradition to speak out even when it is in criticism of your party's actions."
When Nixon became mired in the Watergate scandal, Ashbrook became the first House Republican to call for the President's resignation.
His wife, Jean Spencer Ashbrook, was chosen in a special election to serve the remaining seven months of his congressional term.
The Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs at Ashland University was named for Ashbrook in 1983. A periodic John M. Ashbrook Memorial Dinner at the center features leading conservative speakers from President Ronald Reagan (first dinner; dedication of the Center, in 1983) and Margaret Thatcher (1993) to Mitt Romney (April 2010) and John Boehner (June 2011). Also George H.W. Bush, Justice Clarence Thomas and Henry Kissinger.
Ronald Reagan was president at the time of Ashbrook's death. He honored him with these words: "John Ashbrook was a man of courage and principle. He served his constituents and his country with dedication and devotion, always working towards the betterment of his fellow man. His patriotism and deep belief in the greatness of America never wavered and his articulate and passionate calls for a return to old-fashioned American values earned him the respect of all who knew him."
John M. Ashbrook electoral history
1960 Ohio Seventeenth Congressional District election
^ ab"John M. Ashbrook", Ashbrook Center biography. The Reagan quote came from "a statement released upon learning of the passing of John Ashbrook"; On Principle, Special Edition, 15th Anniversary of the Ashbrook Center (c. 1998), p. 15.
^Gillian Peele, 'American Conservatism in Historical Perspective', in Crisis of Conservatism? The Republican Party, the Conservative Movement, & American Politics After Bush, Gillian Peele, Joel D. Aberbach (eds.), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011, p. 25
^"Ashbrook, John M(ilan)." Current Biography 1973. The H. W. Wilson Company. 1973.P.20.