John Ferguson as Sec. of Admin. under Gov. Leader

I haven’t gotten back to the boxes in the attic to track history after John and Ruth got to Philadelphia yet, but I will eventually.  However, this week Govenor George Leader, one of Dad’s good friends and colleagues died at the age of 95 and it has brought back memories of one of the highlights of Dad’s career.  The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a big article about Governor Leader and his accomplishments as the youngest governor of Pennsylvania when he was elected in the 1950’s as did the New York Times.  He appointed Dad to serve in his cabinet as his Secretary of Administration & Budget and thus began a friendship of mutual admiration until Dad’s death. There was a one term limit in those days so Gov. Leader only served for four years.  Much later George Leader and several of his former cabinet who had stayed in touch, along with brother Milton, formed a local govenment consulting firm where old friendships were renewed. The govenor spoke at Dad’s memorial service remembering what a pleasure it was to work with him because he had never worked with anyone who worked harder and was so pleasant about it!  I remember him saying that there was no assignment he gave him that he wouldn’t tackle with a smile.

Richard and David have been sharing email memories of Dad’s time in Harrisburg and remembering that Dad was responsible for purchasing the first computer used by the state even though Dad was not a techie.  Richard writes:

“Funny you should mention the first state computer – Dad told a story about the purchase of the thing when he was Budget Secretary (I think.)The decision had been made to buy one, and the job of shopping fell to him. Hard to imagine anyone with less aptitude for computers, especially in those days, but I suppose someone had supplied him with specifications.Anyway, one of the companies was Sperry-Rand, as I recall, and Dad went to visit them and kick the tires or whatever in Connecticut around Thanksgiving. When he left, they asked him if he would like to take home a frozen turkey for the holiday, but he declined. Musing about it afterward, he wondered if they really thought they could bribe him to buy their computer with a turkey!

I suppose he realized at some point that the offer was standard corporate customer relations, but to him the notion that he should profit personally while on state business – even by something as trivial as a frozen turkey – was repugnant. That’s the way Dad was. The straightest of arrows, if a bit naïve. I don’t recall where they ended up buying their computer. That must have been around 1955.”

Here are some photos:

JHF & Gov at farm show JHF w PA 1st computer

This photos of the computer were taken at the PA Farm Show where it was put on display.  The thing was a big as a room.  Dad and Gov. Leader are on the left.  The photo on the right is the computer and Dad is showing something and looking like he knows what he’s talking about to Andy Bradley, the first black man appointed to a cabinet position in PA, and two other people I don’t know.  What I remember about this farm show was that Govenor Leader pulled my ponytail!

JHF oath as sec of admin JHF & Ruth w gov

Dad being affirmed (Quakers aren’t “sworn” in) as Sec. of Admin & Budget with Gov. Leader (don’t know the other guy), and with Mom in the photo on the right, at the Capitol in Harrisburg.


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