Harrington Publishes Book

Jerry Harrington recently published a new book detailing the life of Iowa Governor and U.S. Senator Harold Hughes.

Harrington grew up on a dairy farm in northeast Iowa, and he graduated from Cornell College. He entered the career field by getting his first job working for a newspaper, but he eventually moved into public relations. His career took him to New York, Wisconsin, and eventually back to Iowa. He retired from DuPont Pioneer, now Corteva, in 2014.

Harrington also graduated with a masters in history from the University of Iowa, and he had started a Ph.D. program but left when he got a job offer. He decided to use his fascination for history and his background in academia to write a book, entitled Thunder from the Prairie, about Harold Hughes. Hughes was the governor of Iowa (1963-1969) and served in the U.S. Senate (1969-1974).

“He was an incredibly charismatic governor for six years, and it’s said he had a voice borrowed from God,” Harrington said. “He was also a recovered alcoholic, and he was able to use that part of his past to inspire others. He was able to pick himself up from alcoholism and start an impressive career.”

Harrington said that Hughes was a different kind of governor and senator during the 1960s and early-’70s that most of the country did not see at the time.

“He was a born-again Christian, who was liberal, and that is in contrast to most Christians in politics, who tended to be conservatives,” Harrington said. “He fearlessly took on controversial positions, such as coming out against the Vietnam War and was very critical of it.”

The previous governor also stood up for underprivileged people and minorities, and eventually his passion for people changed his career path.

“In the 1960s, he ventured into poor African-American communities throughout Iowa to talk with residents and try to understand their conditions,” Harrington said. “He initiated a series of sermons across the state called the ‘Crisis Conferences’ and spoke to mostly white audiences to encourage empathy for their African-American neighbors. In 1974, he left politics to work in ministry.”

Harrington spent seven years researching the former governor and senator and decided to write a book about him so that people could learn about his contributions to Iowa and the United States. 

“I read through a lot of newspaper articles about him and his accomplishments as governor and senator,” Harrington said. “I rummaged through box after box of his papers housed at the University of Iowa. I also interviewed about 28 people, including his daughter, several aides who worked with him, and two former U.S. senators.”

He was excited to have the book published earlier this year by the University Press of Kansas, and he is eager to share his work with the world.

“It’s rewarding to see it all packaged and to tell other people what I’ve been doing for the past seven years,” Harrington said.