Goodwin Knight

31st Governor, Republican

First Inaugural Address

Delivered: October 5, 1953

Second Inaugural Address - January 3, 1955


The decision of our President, Dwight Eisenhower, and the events of recent days have resulted in my becoming the 31st Governor of California. Six times before today in the last 100 years a Lieutenant Governor has become Governor by succession, the last being Governor Frank Merriam in 1934.

Previous Service

For almost seven years I have served as Lieutenant Governor and many times as Acting Governor of the State. This experience, together with 12 years as a Superior Court judge in Los Angeles County, has given me opportunities to understand the framework of our government.

It has given me the chance to know many hundreds of men and women who work in the State service.

During these last 19 years I have earnestly studied the problems of our State and nation and their relation to the citizen and taxpayer. Before that I worked as a newspaper reporter, hard-rock miner, businessman and lawyer. In these various fields I was on the payroll as a worker, and I also had to meet the payroll as an employer.

Convictions Formed

From these activities I have formed certain definite convictions.

One is that every man and woman in California is concerned with at least one feature of our government, and this concern is the result of their own needs, interests and ambitions.

These desires and hopes are not answered for them entirely by the platforms of political parties, as important and necessary as our political organizations have become.

They are not satisfied by the programs of this or that worthy organization. They are rather grounded in the life pattern of each person and are directly linked to proved performance by leaders of substance and quality.

Sought Understanding

In my sphere of government I have tried to understand these problems. I have tried to translate such understanding into clear discussion and real action.

And now, because of the confidence and goodwill of the people freely expressed, and the law of succession decreed by the people, I have been given more power to administer the office of Governor.

Because of the milestones of my life I feel qualified to serve but at the same time I hasten to assure you that there are many others also qualified. From these many others I propose to secure their aid, counsel and advice.

Value of Modesty

It is a great advantage to a Governor and a sign of safety for the State for the Governor to be sure he is not a great man. But I am positive it is my duty to gather about me men and women of talent and true patriotism, of devotion to public welfare and the highest ideals of democracy. These people I will summon to the service of the State.

If I may be bulwarked by such colleagues, I propose that we address ourselves toward continuing to build highways and freeways. But such building is not enough. We must work toward rapid transit in the great metropolitan areas. To merely build fine highways is not sufficient. The traffic snarl must be unwound as much as engineering skill and planning can conceive and accomplish.

Economic Scene

As we contemplate the finances of our commonwealth we know that from 1942 until January, 1953, the United States has had a continuous period of increasing prosperity based on war economics, inflation and red ink national budgets.

If this spiral of spending has now ended and this results in a severe recession or depression, we will be enormously affected in our aviation, petroleum, lumber and agricultural industries. We shall be alert to such a possible contingency. If it never comes we shall not be damaged by our caution.

Details Due Later

Today it is neither fitting nor proper to outline a detailed program for our taxes, our 1954 budget, or our expenditures. Such matters must be presented to Legislature in full session. That I shall do.

We shall protect and maintain our hospitals, prisons and State institutions. We shall seek new and progressive plans from other States on all subjects, such as penology, mental health, social welfare and natural resources.

With the $52,000,000 we hope soon to obtain from the tidelands legislation we shall aid our general fund and improve our beaches and parks.

We shall keep all of the separate departments which comprise the Governor’s Council vigorous and strong.

We shall confound the ivory tower cynics who keep telling the people that a “give-away” program is the only measure of true liberalism. I believe we can have a realistic, human approach to all problems under the free enterprise system. I shall reject all the St. Vitus dance theories of radicalism.

Habit of Labeling

But because I reject these unsound practices I give no support to the claims that monopoly and privilege shall have any place in my administration.

It has been the fashion in recent years to label every public servant as a “conservative,” “liberal” and so forth. This kind of political packaging has the advantage of the slogan and, besides, requires little thinking and no research.

This formula will not be the true test of the coming administration at Sacramento. I shall denounce the rigor mortis of all reactionary policies and shall welcome all workable programs for social betterment.

Full Energy Pledged

I can think of no more vital need which demands new and perhaps drastic action by government than the control of our air pollution. The menace now hovering over the Los Angeles basin must be destroyed. The State of California, through the Departments of Health and Public Works and even the Legislature itself must help to win this fight against the shadowy monster now injuring our health, happiness and recreation. And make no mistake, the Los Angeles area may not be the only one so harmed.

To all these challenges and many more no less pressing because not mentioned now, I bring you every ounce of energy and devotion I possess. I stand before you today and declare that I am free from any obligations except those pronounced in my oath of office—free from any promise except to work for you with fidelity and honor. Free from all private business interests or allowances, I have but one ambition, but one driving desire—to be a good Governor for all the people of California.

With God’s help and your support I can and will succeed.