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Man Once Thought Dead Elected Governor

Harry G. Leslie

When you think about elections, you don’t often consider electing an official who was thought to have died years before the election ever took place. The people of Indiana do not appear to have had any qualms about doing just that in the fall of 1928 for the state’s highest office.

Harry G. Leslie was the governor of Indiana from 1929 until 1933. However, more than 25 years prior to the election, he was lying in a morgue. On Oct. 31, 1903, the Purdue University and Indiana University rivalry game was scheduled. Two special trains were heading south from West Lafayette to Indianapolis where the game was to be played.

At the time, Leslie was captain of the football team at Purdue and riding with the other players in the first car. After rounding a bend, the Big Four Railroad's engine 350 collided with a coal train which had not been notified of the special’s presence on the tracks. The cars were destroyed and several bodies were taken to the morgue, among them the body of Harry G. Leslie. 

Hours later, it was discovered that Leslie still had a pulse albeit faint. Although in grave condition immediately following the accident, he slowly recovered with the help of several operations. He carried the scars and limped as a result of that day for the rest of his life. Seventeen people lost their lives in the crash, including 14 players.

Incredibly, Harry G. Leslie was able to graduate from Purdue just one year behind schedule, continuing onto Indiana University to complete a law degree. He became involved in politics, holding various offices and was elected governor of Indiana just as the Great Depression was about to start. He served one term as governor.

For more information about Harry G. Leslie and other Indiana governors, see The Governors of Indiana published by the Indiana Historical Society.