John J. Gilligan, 92; was governor, congressman

John J. Gilligan was a professor of literature before turning to politics.
Associated Press
John J. Gilligan was a professor of literature before turning to politics.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Former Ohio governor and US representative John J. Gilligan, a liberal Democrat whose creation of the state income tax was his most lasting accomplishment and also the undoing of his political career, died Monday. He was 92.

Mr. Gilligan’s death was confirmed by his caregiver, Frank Kennedy, who did not provide a cause of death.

Mr. Gilligan’s daughter Kathleen Sebelius, a former Kansas governor, became health and human services secretary under President Obama, in 2009.


Governor John Kasich of Ohio ordered flags lowered to half-staff until the day of Mr. Gilligan’s funeral. Kasich, a Republican, said Mr. Gilligan “served with honor and distinction,”

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Mr. Gilligan, a teacher, became the state’s 62d governor in 1970, a year in which Republicans suffered from a loan scandal in the state treasurer’s office.

He inherited a school funding problem in which 24 districts had closed for lack of operating money, and more were expected to follow suit.

Mr. Gilligan soon persuaded legislators to enact the state’s first corporate and personal income tax in 1971 to raise money for dealing with those and other government priorities.

Mr. Gilligan was born in Cincinnati and served as a US Navy gunnery officer in World War II, earning a Silver Star for rescuing several crew members from the destroyer USS Rodman after enemy shells set it ablaze off Okinawa.


Before his military service, he had graduated from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.

After the war he earned a master’s degree at the University of Cincinnati and then started teaching literature at Xavier University.

Mr. Gilligan was elected to the US House from the First District in 1964, but lost reelection two years later. In 1968, he defeated US Senator Frank J. Lausche for the Democratic nomination to the seat, but lost the general election to Republican William B. Saxbe.

Mr. Gilligan then won the May 1970 Democratic nomination for governor, and defeated Republican Roger Cloud in the general election.

After leaving the governor’s mansion, Mr. Gilligan was a fellow with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington and led the Agency for International Development for two years.


He returned to teaching, spending 12 years at Notre Dame, where he also headed the university’s Institute for International Peace Studies. He returned to the University of Cincinnati in 1992, where he was director of the College of Law’s Civic Forum.