Nanticoke Historical Society

Nanticoke Historical Society

Saturday, July 30, 2016

John. S. Fine Timeline As Research by the Nanticoke Historical Society Part II

My opening comments: A distant relative, the benefactor of this material was unable to be contacted. I was hoping to put some narrative and a personal story to this blog.  We were unable to contact her perhaps for reasons of anonymity, privacy or health,we are not sure.  In light of that we will present a timeline of John S. Fine Governor of Pennsylvania.

John Sydney Fine
  (Includes excerpts taken from article on the life of John S. Fine, author unaccredited, now in possession of Nanticoke Historical Society. New material added as uncovered.)


  John Sydney Fine was born in Alden on 10 April 1893, the son of Jacob W. and Margaret C. Fine.


  The family moved to Nanticoke about this time. John S. attended Nanticoke public schools, worked as a farm hand during the summer months, and also worked about the mines.


  A handsome piano was purchased by Jacob Fine yesterday. (WBR, Hanover column, Fri, 10/22/1897)

 Mrs. and Mrs. Jacob Fine, sons, John and Franklin, and daughter Bertha resided in Rhone. (WBR, Rhone column, Tues, 8/23/1898)
  J.W. Fine was a member of Knights of the Maccabees of the World, 1898 and a Nanticoke councilman, 1898


  J.W. Fine has a baby boy. His son, John, is ill with scarlet fever. (WBR, Tuesday, 2/21/1899)
  The 7-week old child of ex-councilman Jacob Fine of Hanover was buried in the Centre Cemetery yesterday. Services were conducted in the Centre Church. (WBR, Tues, 4/11/1899)
  Everette Fine, 2 months, son of Jacob Fine, was interred in Newport Cemetery on Monday, 10 April 1899. Pall bearers were Maud Andrews, Ethel Cease, Blanche Whitebread and Katie Carr. (WBR, Rhone column, Friday 4/14/1899)
  Mrs. Jacob Fine and daughter Bertha spent Thursday in WB. (WBR, Sat, 6/10/1899)
  Jacob Fine, who was burned in the Auchincloss engine house, is improving. (WBR, Wednesday, 7/26/1899)
  Bertha Fine was a graduate of the High School (1901) and teacher in the Nanticoke public school system. Bertha became Mrs. Harry Goulston and resided in Kingston at the time of her father’s death in 1931


  John S. Fine graduated from Nanticoke HS. While attending HS, Fine became an assistant to TA McHenry, in charge of the Nanticoke department of the WB Record. Fine showed an aptitude for journalistic work, which augured well for his success in that field and in his later legal profession.
  John Fine and John Smith left for Carlyle to take up the study of law at Dickinson College. (9/23/11)


  Fine took the preliminary examinations before the State Board in Phil. A total of 165 applicants tested and only 31 passed, of which Fine was one of the latter. (2/15/12)


  Friends of John Fine will be pleased to know that he has successfully passed his examination at Dickinson College at Carlisle and was handed his diploma a few days ago. (5/2/14)
  Date? Fine was admitted to practice at the Luzerne County Bar and became connected with the law office of Attorney Clarence Coughlin (later Judge Coughlin).


  Opened a law office at 15 E. Main in the former rooms of Atty. James M. Fritz over O’Brien’s Drug Store. (4/1/15)

  John S. Fine became a candidate for Republican State Committeeman for the 20th Senatorial District. (WBR 2/17/1916)


  District chairman of the Fourth Legislative District of Luzerne County.


  Fine and Hale Coughlin were among the first to volunteer for military service during WWI. After a period in officer’s training camp at Madison Barracks, they were commissioned first lieutenants and assigned to duty with labor battalions in the South. In the early stages of the war, both men were sent to France with the Expeditionery Forces of the 28th Division, where they saw active service until the end of the war.


  After the close of WWI, Fine entered Trinity College, University of Dublin, Ireland, where he pursued the study of law before returning to the US.
  Franklin Fine, son of Mr. and Mrs. John Fine of Middle Road and brother of Atty. John S. Fine, was a veteran of WWI. He was a member of the Medical Corps stationed in the general hospital at Ft. Ontario, Oswego. (WBR 8/7/1918)

  Fine returned to the US and opened a law office at 34 E. Main. (1919 CD)


  Fine and Atty. E. Foster Heller of WB were alternates for the advance guard of the local GOP attending the Republican National Convention in Chicago where nominations for the next president of the US were about to begin. (6/5/20)
  Served as secretary of the Luzerne County Republican committee (1920-21), by appointedment of Asher Miner.


  John S. Fine was appointed instructor in the law course in the WB Extension School of Accounts and Finance of the Wharton School of the University of PA. (WBR, Saturday, 1/22/1921)

  Fine supported Gifford Pinchot in his bid for the governorship of PA, thereby opposing the political machine of Luzerne County, which was supporting William G. Altar. After winning the election, Pinchot never failed to show his gratitude to Fine for his help. 


  Attorney John S. Fine has returned to his home after spending several days at Washington. (WBR, Saturday, 1/28/1922)
  Attorney John S. Fine has returned to his home after spending his vacation in Canada. (WBR, Thursday, 8/3/1922)
  John S. Fine was elected Republican county chairman, and was chairman of the Luzerne County Pinchot-for-Senator committee. He began building a party machine, and for the next 35 years the Fine Organization delivered votes to the party each election.


  JS Fine’s office was at 34 E. Main and his residence was on Middle Road. (City Directory)
  Franklin Fine and Walter Walp, juniors at the Dental College of Temple University, have gone to Philadelphia where they will resume their studies. (WBR, Wednesday, 10/3/1923)


  John S. Fine took the oath of office as Luzerne County Judge in Bellevue-Stratford Hotel, Philadelphia, on 3 January. Fine, who was named by Governor Pinchot, filled the vacancy caused by the death of Judge John M. Garman on Thanksgiving Day, 1925. Judge Fine, who was in Atlantic City recovering from a cold, was advised to take the oath of office before 10AM on the morning of 4 January when the PA Senate was due to convene. This step was taken to prevent the necessity of Judge Fine’s name going before the Senate for confirmation, which would have been the case if he had been appointed after the Legislature convened. Unable to reach Harrisburg in the appointed time, Fine took a late train to Philadelphia on the night of 3 January where he met John Brace of Plymouth, who had brought the judge’s commission from Harrisburg. After a frantic search for an available notary public to administer the oath of office to Mr. Fine, Mr. Brace located Nathan Goldstein, a notary public and taxi driver (the only notary public/taxi driver in the city), who administered the oath of office to Fine at 11:57PM on 3 January. Fine thus became the only Judge of the US who ever took the oath of office from a taxi driver. At age 32, Fine was the youngest man to serve as a common pleas judge in PA. He was a member of several fraternal organizations, including the Mason, POS of A, Nanticoke Lodge Knights of Pythias, and Fraternal Order of Moose. He was a member of the Reciprocity Club and attended St. George’s Episcopal Church, Alden. (1/4/27) (1/6/27)
  A number of public-spirited citizens of Nanticoke met and outlined tentative plans for a big testimonial dinner to be given in honor of Judge Fine at the Broadway Armory. (Jan)
  On July 20, Judge Fine announced his candidacy for continued tenure on the Luzerne County bench, after a delay of several weeks during which he had “made a careful analysis of the judicial situation.” Member of Nanticoke Post of the American Legion, Elks, several Masonic bodies, POS of A, Junior Mechanics, Reciprocity Club, etc. (7/21/27)
  Re-elected a Judge of Luzerne County, with 42,446 votes. (11/9/27)
  Mr. and Mrs. Jacob W. Fine of Nanticoke, parents of Judge John S. Fine, celebrated their golden wedding anniversary on 25 December 1927. (WB Record Almanac)


  Fine’s commission as Luzerne County Judge expired on the first Monday in January (2 January).
(He had been re-elected to a second term.)
  A photograph of Judge John S. Fine and cab driver/notary public Nathan Goldstein was printed in the 3 January edition of the Wilkes Barre Record, in which they re-enacted the swearing in ceremony that took place the year before. (WBR 1/3/28)

From: Eastern Pennsylvanians; Eastern Pennsylvania Biographical Association, 1928


  The State administration wing of the Republican Party organization in retained control of offices gained in 1930, and by winning every office in the 1931 campaign gained power and influence. A spirited battle was staged between State administration faction headed by Judge John S. Fine, Arthur Nicholson and Ambrose Langan, and the Old Guard faction, led by William P. Gallagher and former Lt. Gov. Arthur H. James. Candidates endorsed by the Fine-Nicholson-Langan group at the primary won Republican and Democratic
nominations with few exceptions.
Luzerne County
(Wilkes-Barre Record Almanac)







  Fine was re-elected county judge. 


  Fine ran in the Republican primary election for State Supreme
Court and lost.


  John Sydney Fine, 76 W. Main Street, Nanticoke (Nanticoke Telephone Directory listing, 1943)


 Governor Duff appointed Fine to the State Superior Court (10-year term).


  Fine resigned his position in the Superior Court on 1 March to seek the Republican candidacy for governor of PA.
  Fine became one of the “Blue Bell Boys” of the Duff faction of the Republican Party in the 1950 primary. He won the nomination by defeating Jay Cooke of Philadelphia by 201,923 votes. In the general election he defeated Democrat Richardson Dilworth in an extremely close election.
  Under the direction of Mayor Dreier and Chief of Police John Smereski, and a committee of public officials and representative citizens, plans were made for a motorcade and street demonstration in honor of Nanticoke’s native son, former judge John S. Fine. The event was held in conjunction with the Duff-Fine rally at the Kingston Armory. (Date?)
  During the campaign in October Fine’s wife, Helene, 42, fell from a platform and died while undergoing brain surgery at University Hospital in Philadelphia, leaving Fine with the upbringing of his two sons, John, 10, and Donald, 7. He never fully recovered from the loss, which colored the rest of his private and public life.


  Fine entered the Governor’s office on 16 January knowing he had to raise $120 million in new tax money to meet the increased cost of government, especially education. He asked for a state income tax of one half of one percent, which would have meant a tax of $50 on a salary of $10,000 a year. The tax passed the house but was killed in the senate.
  The 1951 legislature did pass some outstanding pieces of legislature, including laws to begin the care of drug addicts, an indeterminate sentence program for sex offenders, job retraining, and teacher pay raises.


  The state’s first bicentennial $1 billion budget was approved and Fine was forced to take the 1% sales tax to pay for it. The slogan “a penny for Fine” became popular and seriously damaged his reputation. 


  Fine received a major blow from the unfavorable publicity he drew at the 1952 GOP national convention. He headed the 70-member PA delegation, which was split between General Eisenhower and Senator Robert Taft. Fine was caught in the confusion and televised coast to coast as he raged to be recognized by the chair. It is ironical that he was a victim of the searing eye of television, for he had been the first governor to have his inaugural televised


  Governor Fine urged the PA legislature to approve educational TV. His 1953 legislature redistricted the State House for the first time in 32 years, approved a program of area technical schools, and established the Governor’s Commission on Industrial Race Relations. Fine set up the Chesterman Committee to find means for modernizing government, and many of its suggestions were adopted by the Leader Administration.

Letter to Eugene A. Hudak, City Clerk


Letter to Thomas B. Thomas, City Clerk


  Fine’s term as governor ended on 18 January. Though he left office a discouraged and unpopular man, with a Democrat in George Leader replacing him, he had been a fairly constructive governor. At age 61, he went into political retirement.


  Fine sought a position on the Orphans Court of Luzerne County but was defeated. He farmed at Loyalville in Luzerne County and then in March 1961 was indicted for income tax invasion. While under indictment he remarried, and in May 1962 was declared innocent of the tax charges.


  John S. Fine of Loyalville, a life member of Nanticoke VFW Post 290, was principal speaker at a testimonial dinner in honor of Louis T. Giusti, a long time quartermaster of the local veterans organization. The dinner was held at the American Legion on 5 March. (Sunday Ind., 2/20/1966; with photo)




John S. fine died 21 May 1978.

Short Biography of John S. Fine


Road To Success (Times-Leader, 5/26/1982)


Oil Painting of John S. Fine Presented to Board of Education



  John S. Fine, Jr.
  Married: Mariellen Daw
  Children: John S. Fine III; Helene

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