John K. Tener assumed office as the Governor of Pennsylvania in January of 1911 and served until 1915, meaning that he was Governor for the final two and a half years of planning and preparations for the Great Reunion as well as the presiding Governor during the gathering in July, 1913.
The first time I came across John K. Tener’s name I thought it sounded familiar. When I was growing up in Pittsburgh in the 1960s and early 1970s I was so much of a baseball “nut” and Pittsburgh Pirates fan that I could just about recite the name of every player on each Pirates team going back fifty or sixty years to the turn of the 20th century. Further, I lived and breathed baseball and read just about everything there was to read, and the names of people associated with the sport as far back as the late 1800s were familiar to me. Sure enough, when reading about Tener I knew where I had heard his name before: as the President of the National League back in the early part of the 20th century, and a former 19th century baseball pitcher himself.
What is fascinating is that Tener began serving as the National League President even while he was still Governor. The more I read about Tener, the more intriguing his story became:
– Born in Ireland only weeks after the Battle of Gettysburg
– After his baseball playing days – and even during – a Pittsburgh-area businessman
– Drafted by the Pennsylvania Republican Party to run for Governor in light of a scandal in the construction of the State Capitol Building in Harrisburg
– A reform-oriented, progressive record as Governor
– A very tall man for his day…6’ 4”, the same height as Abraham Lincoln, given both of their roles in “returning to Gettysburg” fifty years apart
Whereas I wrote other Great Reunion-related personalities into my novel “in passing” I decided to give John K. Tener a more significant role in the tale given how fascinating his own story is.