Photo credit: Portrait: Senate of Pennsylvania
A 19-year Senate Republican from Philadelphia and the last vestige of the Penrose machine, Augustus F. Daix was born in Philadelphia, October 3, 1866, to Augustus Felix Daix, Sr. and the former Emilie Steinmetz McDonald. Descendant of 1860 French immigrants Elois and Virginia Ruand Daix, his father was a South Fourth Street hair dresser-manufacturer, wigmaker, liquor merchant, and real estate broker. After following his dad’s footsteps in various vocational pursuits, he settled as a lawyer and real estate broker, 1886-1897, and a partner in A.F. Daix and Son. Augustus graduated from Philadelphia’s Lauderbach Academy and the Penn law school in 1893. Daix subsequently passed the Philadelphia County law board examination, remaining a member of bar for 40 years. He married Blanche Lillian Dunn in 1897.
Entering the state Senate after the 1912 election, Daix quickly established himself as a tireless legislator, serving on seven committees during the 1913 session. Over the years, he accepted memberships on Federal Relations, Insurance, Judicial Apportionment, Judiciary General, Judiciary Special, Legislative Apportionment, New Counties and Seats, Appropriations, Public Buildings, City Passenger Railways, Public Health and Sanitation, and Finance. He served as Chairman of Exposition Affairs, Public Supply of Light, Heat, and Water (later public utilities), Appropriations, and Finance. Senator Daix wrote the 1921 Insurance Department Act; stood as an ardent foe of prohibition; championed taxpayer-relief; and advocated the payment of public improvements through bond-issues rather than taxation (ironically, similar to archenemy Pinchot). In 1921, during a huge wave of “violent crimes and motor banditry,” he and William Sproul penned a bill prohibiting the lenient sentencing of repeat felons. Daix and the Philadelphia Senate delegation perceived that those committing a second felony deserved mandatory “life imprisonment.”
“He became a conspicuous figure in one of the most bitter Republican factional fights in the history of the Commonwealth,” an imbroglio with Governor Pinchot, who intervened during the Senate’s organization to block rival Daix’s election to the pro tem position. In 1931, Governor Pinchot locked horns with the Republican caucus over its choice of Daix for president pro tempore.
The success of Pinchot’s initiatives depended on a shellacking of anti-administration Philadelphians. Washington County state GOP party chair (future Governor) Edward Martin assured Pinchot that there existed no cause for alarm: urban upper-house members would refuse to “interfere” with his program. Pinchot sensed an ambush. In conference, he boldly denounced Daix as a member of the Philadelphia machine, unfriendly to the administration, and one who “forfeited all claim” to Senate leadership. A battle in the Senate erupted between 24 conservative senators and 22 Pinchot reform partisans. The battle-line drawn and jumped with both Pinchot feet, the ill-advised leap guaranteed his limited legislative success. Augustus defeated Senator William D. Mansfield of Allegheny County, as Homsher pulled a last minute caucus negotiation marvel, lining up 24 of the present 46 Republican votes. Daix ultimately defeated the Pinchot nominee, 24-22, a move that initiated one of the more contentious sessions in decades. Augustus next defeated Democrat Warren Roberts, 46-4, down party lines, as recalcitrant Pinchot Republicans now contented themselves to follow unit rule.
The senator served as a two-term president of the North West Businessmen’s Association, organized and became a five-time president of the United Businessmen’s Association of Philadelphia, and served as solicitor for the North Western Trust Company. Augustus was a thirty-third degree Mason, a member of the Union League, and belonged to the Philadelphia Historical Society. The Honorable Augustus F. Daix passed away after a prolonged illness on May 5, 1932, in Atlantic City.