Howard Landis Bevis
b. Nov. 19, 1885
d. April 25, 1968
95th Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio
Term
1933 to 1934

HOWARD LANDIS BEVIS

Howard Landis Bevis was born Nov. 19, 1885, in Bevis, Ohio, to Edgar M. and Cara E. Corson Bevis. He attended public schools and the Cincinnati Technical Institute. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati in 1908, and his law degree from the Cincinnati Law School in 1910. For the next eight years, he practiced law in Cincinnati, clerking for Judge Stanley Struble and then working in private law practice.

Bevis served in the Ordinance Department of the U.S. Army during World War I and later served as chief of the legal section of the finance division in the U.S. Army Air Corps. When the war ended, Bevis returned to his studies, earning a Juris Doctor at Harvard Law School. He then taught at Leland Stamford University and the University of Cincinnati. In 1926, Bevis served as the secretary of the Charter Amendment Committee for the city of Cincinnati.

Bevis left his teaching position in 1931 to become director of finance in Gov. George White’s administration. Under Bevis, the first drastic cuts in state operating costs were made, which later resulted in the most economic administration Ohio had enjoyed up to that time.

Bevis was appointed to the Supreme Court of Ohio in June of 1933 by Gov. White. However, his campaign for re-election in 1934 was unsuccessful. In his short tenure on the Court, one opinion stands out.

In Hamden Lodge, I.O.O.F. v. Ohio Fuel Gas Co. in 1934, at issue was whether a gas company was entitled to a directed verdict in a property owner’s action for damages caused by the explosion of a gas line when the property owners failed to show the gas company had control over a leaking pipe or a duty to inspect or repair it. A verdict was rendered for the plaintiffs. Judgment was taken to the Vinton County Court of Appeals in error. In the appeals court opinion, there was not enough evidence showing the defendant gas company was responsible for the construction, maintenance and repair of the service line. Thus, the defendant was entitled to a directed verdict and the appeals court ordered the judgment reversed. Justice Bevis’s opinion reviewed in detail the current judicial findings on the “scintilla rule” and upheld the Court’s power to regulate the jury’s action, at least to the extent of seeing that such action is not wholly unreasonable. Bevis found no error in the judgment of the appeals court and affirmed the judgment.

In 1934, Bevis returned as director of finance to public service, this time in the Gov. Martin L. Davey administration. He resigned in 1935 to take a position at Harvard University as a professor of business law. Bevis was named the seventh president of Ohio State University in 1940, replacing G.W. Rightmire. He served Ohio State for 16 and a half years.

Bevis married Alma D. Murray in 1914. They had one son.