Odell, Benjamin B(arker), Jr (b Newburgh, Orange Co, 14 Jan 1854; d Newburgh, 9 May 1926). Governor and businessman.
Odell attended local schools, Bethany College in West Virginia, and Columbia College in New York City before joining his father, who was active in Republican politics, in the ice business in 1875. Odell’s other business ventures included utilities and transportation, and in 1887 he became a member of the Republican State Committee. He was elected to Congress—representing Orange, Rockland, and Sullivan Cos—in 1894 and 1896. He did not seek another term in 1898, the year he was chosen chairman of the Republican State Committee. His efforts to secure Theodore Roosevelt the Republican nomination for governor in 1898 reflected Odell’s skills in political maneuvering.
Odell himself was elected governor in 1900 and 1902. During his tenure, Odell consolidated overlapping state agencies, supported tenement house reform, and repealed the direct state tax on real estate while increasing indirect taxes on corporations. He also favored enlarging the Erie Canal, and in 1903 voters approved a bond act allocating $101 million for the project. Odell’s disputes with Republican political boss Thomas C. Platt on various topics, including administration of the New York City police, undercut Platt’s authority. Odell did not run for reelection in 1904. He returned to Newburgh and remained active in business, and during World War I, he served as state ice controller.
McCormick, Richard L. From Realignment to Reform: Political Change in New York State, 1893–1910 (Ithaca: Cornell Univ Press, 1981)
Peter Eisenstadt, ed., The Encyclopedia of New York State
(Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2005), [p. 1130].
© Syracuse University Press. Reproduced with permission from the publisher.