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Sunday, May 05, 2013

Ind. Gov't. - Otis R. Bowen dies at 95

From the AP story by Tom Davies, here in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette:

Bowen died Saturday at the Catherine Kasper Life Center, a nursing home in Donaldson, about 25 miles south of South Bend and near Bowen's hometown of Bremen. * * *

"Governor Otis R. Bowen's contributions to the life of this state and nation are incalculable, and I mark his passing with a sense of personal loss. His story is as inspiring as it is uniquely Hoosier," said [Governor] Pence, who also expressed his sympathies to Bowen's children and grandchildren.

Bowen, known among Hoosiers for decades as "Doc," was a doctor in the northern Indiana town of Bremen when he first was elected to office in 1952 as Marshall County coroner, starting a political rise that saw him become a wildly popular Republican governor during 1973-81. * * *

Bowen made state-backed property tax relief his top campaign pledge as those taxes had more than doubled in the previous decade. Legislation passed the next year doubled the sales tax to 4 percent and dedicating the extra revenue to property tax cuts. The proposal was so hotly contested that it only passed the state Senate when Bowen's lieutenant governor, Robert D. Orr, cast a tiebreaking vote. * * *

Under an amendment to the state constitution, he was the first governor since the mid-1800s eligible to seek a second consecutive term and easily won re-election in 1976 over Indiana Secretary of State Larry Conrad.

In 1979, Bowen refused to extradite Indiana University basketball coach Bob Knight to Puerto Rico after the coach was convicted in absentia and sentenced to six months in jail for hitting a policeman during the Pan Am Games.

Republican leaders wanted Bowen to challenge Democratic Sen. Birch Bayh in 1980, but he declined as his wife, Beth, was in the midst of cancer treatment. His decision cleared the way for Dan Quayle, then a 33-year-old congressman, to win the GOP nomination and unseat Bayh.

Beth Bowen died on New Year's Day 1981 after more than 40 years of marriage and just days before her husband's second gubernatorial term ended.

Bowen was born Feb. 26, 1918, near the northern Indiana town of Rochester. He received bachelor's and medical degrees from Indiana University and joined the Army Medical Corps after completing his internship in 1943. His World War II service included going ashore with the first waves of Allied troops during the invasion of Okinawa in 1945.

He then returned to Indiana and, in 1946, started a family medical practice in Bremen, a small town about 20 miles south of South Bend, which he continued for 25 years.

Bowen once said his medical career, during which he estimated he delivered 3,000 babies, taught him "how to approach emergencies and problems with a certain amount of calmness and common sense."

Neither the AP nor the IndyStar stories currently mention Bowen's service in the Indiana House. But the IN/gov site gives a detailed bio. Some quotes about his House service:
Dr. Bowen served as county coroner before his election to the Indiana House of Representatives in 1956. He lost a race for re-election to the House by four votes in 1958 but was elected to seven consecutive House terms beginning in 1960. He became minority leader in 1965 and speaker in 1967. He served as Speaker through four legislative sessions (1967, 1969, 1971, and 1972).

After unsuccessfully seeking the Republican nomination for Governor in 1968, Dr. Bowen was elected to that office in 1972. That year voters also ratified a Constitutional amendment allowing Governors to serve successive terms. Dr. Bowen won re-election in 1976 to become the first Governor since 1851 to serve two consecutive four-year terms. His tenure in Indiana's highest public office was marked by a major tax restructuring reducing reliance on property taxes, major improvements to state park facilities, development of a statewide emergency medical services system, and adoption of a medical malpractice law that was destined to become a national model.

I first met then-Rep. Bowen in the mid-60s, when I began working for the General Assembly. He had not yet become House Speaker. But no matter what his position, Representative, Speaker, or Governor, he was always known as "Doc" Bowen.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 5, 2013 03:38 PM
Posted to Indiana Government