Charles Bowles

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Charles Bowles
54th Mayor of Detroit, Michigan
In office
Preceded byJohn C. Lodge
Succeeded byFrank Murphy
Personal details
BornMarch 24, 1884
Yale, Michigan
DiedJuly 30, 1957 (1957-07-31) (aged 73)
Detroit, Michigan
Alma materUniversity of Michigan

Charles E. Bowles (March 24, 1884 – July 30, 1957) was a politician from Michigan, and served as Mayor of Detroit in 1930.

Life and career[edit]

Charles Bowles was born on March 24, 1884 in Yale, Michigan, the son of Alfred and Mary Lutz Bowles.[1] He graduated from Ferris Institute (now Ferris State University) in 1904, received a law degree from the University of Michigan in 1908, and was admitted to the bar in 1909.[1] He married Ruth Davis in 1915; the couple had one daughter, Helen Ruth Bowles.[1]

Bowles entered politics from obscurity and to run for the mayor's office vacated by Frank Ellsworth Doremus's resignation in 1925.[2] He was openly supported by the Ku Klux Klan.[3] He ran third in the primary election behind John W. Smith and Joseph A. Martin, eliminating him from the ballot in the general election.[4] However, Bowles continued his campaign as a write-in candidate, and nearly won, losing only after 15,000 ballots were disqualified.[3] Bowles ran unsuccessfully for mayor once more the next year.[3][5] After his mayoral run, he obtained a position as judge on the recorder's court.[5] He was re-elected to his judgeship, but resigned to make one more run at the mayor's office in 1929.[5]

Bowles defeated John C. Lodge in the primary and John W. Smith in the general election to win office.[5] Bowles had campaigned as an anti-crime reformer, but when he fired Police Commissioner Harold Emmons after the latter had ordered a series of raids, he was accused of "tolerating lawlessness" and a recall election was instituted barely six months after he had entered office.[5][6] Multiple people campaigned for Bowles's recall, including radio commentator Jerry Buckley.[5] The recall was successful,[6] but on the morning after, Buckley was shot in a hotel lobby.[5] Although evidence later surfaced indicating the murder had more to do with underworld blackmail than politics, the murder of Buckley cast suspicion on Bowles.[5][7] Bowles ran in the mayoral election a month later, but lost to Frank Murphy.[8]

Later in his career he unsuccessfully ran for both the Michigan State House and U.S. House, as well as Detroit mayor.[9]

Charles Bowles died on July 30, 1957, and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery.[10]


  1. ^ a b c Who's Who in Detroit, 1935-36, Walter Romig & Co, 1935, p. 42
  2. ^ National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (1969), William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, ed., Crisis, Volumes 30-31; Black experience in America: Negro periodicals in the United States, 1840-1960, Crisis Pub. Co.
  3. ^ a b c Victoria W. Wolcott (2001), Remaking respectability: African American women in interwar Detroit, UNC Press Books, p. 141, ISBN 0-8078-4966-9
  4. ^ Kenneth T. Jackson (1968), The Ku Klux Klan in the city, 1915-1930, Oxford University Press m
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Wilma Wood Henrickson (1991), Detroit perspectives: crossroads and turning points, Wayne State University Press, pp. 340–344, ISBN 0-8143-2013-9
  6. ^ a b "Bowles First Detroit Mayor To Be Recalled". Lewiston Daily Sun. Jul 24, 1930.
  7. ^ "Three Go On Trial In Buckley Slaying; State Claims Murder was "Perfect Crime"". Palm Beach Post. Mar 4, 1931.
  8. ^ "Bowles Loses But Wins Over Recall Crowd". Sarasota Herald. Sep 10, 1930.
  9. ^ "Lively Mayoralty Nace Predicted In Detroit". Palm Beach Post. Oct 7, 1943.
  10. ^ "Charles E. Bowles". Find-a-Grave. Retrieved November 8, 2010.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
John C. Lodge
Mayor of Detroit
Succeeded by
Frank Murphy