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Born in Chicago, Illinois, Bowler attended the parochial and public schools. He was a professional bicycle racer as a young man and engaged in the insurance business. He became an Alderman (City Councilman) for Chicago's 19th Ward in 1906, serving alongside John Powers. When Anthony D'Andrea ran against Bowler in 1916, the violence during the election sparked the five years Aldermen's Wars, which saw thirty political operatives killed.
Bowler served in the Chicago City Council until 1953, with hiatuses from 1923 to 1927 when he served as Chicago's Commissioner of Compensation, and in 1934, when he was Chicago's Commissioner of Vehicle Licenses. He was President pro tempore of the City Council for eight years, and his 42 years in the City Council made him the longest-serving Alderman ever.
Bowler was the Chairperson of the City Council's remapping committee in 1923 when it became apparent that the fairest map would redistrict him out of his own 19th Ward. With no hesitation, he proceeded to remap himself out of the City Council. Four years later, he ran in the new ward in which he found himself residing, the 25th, and won.
In 1953, he became a U.S. Representative for Illinois' 7th District. He was elected as a Democrat to the Eighty-third Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Adolph J. Sabath. He was reelected to the Eighty-fourth and Eighty-fifth Congresses and served from July 7, 1953, until his death.
Bowler is considered to have been one of the five individuals most responsible for pushing through legislation that helped fund the building of the Congress Street (now Eisenhower) Expressway in Chicago. He also was instrumental in creating the Illinois Medical District in Chicago, which contains several hospitals and other healthcare providers.
- James Bowler at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Bike, William S. Streets of the Near West Side. Chicago: ACTA Publications, 1996, p. 22-23.
This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
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