Dave Yost’s election to Attorney General could mark the first time in more than a century that an Ohio politician was elected to statewide executive office while sporting a beard.
Yost’s closely cropped stubble is a five o’clock shadow compared to the full beard worn by what may be his most recent bearded predecessor: Gov. John M. Pattison, who was elected in 1905.
Pattison’s scruff wasn’t unusual for its time. He died after falling ill during his inauguration, similar to the fate that befell clean-shaving Ohioan William Henry Harrison after he was elected president. Pattison was replaced by Lt. Gov. Andrew Harris, who boasted more of a Van Dyke.
That is according to researchers at the Ohio History Connection, who looked for follicles in their photographic archives at the request of the Dayton Daily News. Historians there named Pattison as the last bearded statewide executive officials.
“Although hard to answer with certainty, Ohio’s statewide elected officials have been fairly clean shaven through the 20th and into the 21st centuries,” said Ohio History spokeswoman Emmy Beach.
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Historians note that full-bearded Lewis Laylin served as Ohio Secretary of State from 1901-1907, but was last re-elected in 1904, prior to Pattison. The study did not factor in judicial elections. Michael Donnelly, who does have a beard, was elected to the Ohio Supreme Court last week.
Yost was shorn when elected as Auditor of State in 2010 and 2014, cultivating the beard before this year’s election.
“Many people told me they thought I looked like a liberal and I should shave it,” he told the Daily News. “The problem is, my wife liked it and thought it made me look more approachable — an approachable conservative, I guess.”
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“It’s clear in retrospect that the coolest men have beards, and the voters mistook me for a cool person. I will do my humble best to live up to their undeserved expectations.”
Will Yost represent a beard bellwether?
Raymond Whitsel, owner of Synful Beard Oil and Balms of West Alexandria, isn’t so sure. He called Yost’s chin growth a “starter beard” by his standards.
“I don’t see it as creating a trend or fad,” Whitsel said. “A lot of people are bearded in Ohio whether it’s a part of their identity or as a fashion statement,” he said.