Charles Wheeler (politician)

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Charles Bertan Wheeler, Jr.
Portrait of Dr. Charles B. Wheeler.jpg
Dr. Charles Wheeler
Member of the Missouri Senate
from the 10th district
In office
January 2003 – January 2007
Preceded by Harry Wiggins
Succeeded by Jolie Justus
49th Mayor of Kansas City
In office
April 10, 1971 – April 10, 1979
Preceded by Ilus W. Davis
Succeeded by Richard L. Berkley
Judge of the Western District of the Jackson County Court
In office
January 1967 – January 1971
Coroner of Jackson County
In office
January 1965 – January 1967
Personal details
Born (1926-08-10) August 10, 1926 (age 91)
Kansas City, Missouri
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Marjorie Martin Wheeler
Children Gordon, Mark, Marion, Graham, Nina
Residence Kansas City, Missouri

Charles Bertan Wheeler, Jr. (born August 10, 1926) is a former Missouri state senator and a former mayor of Kansas City, Missouri from 1971 to 1979, in addition to having held other elected offices.


Born at Trinity Lutheran Hospital on August 10, 1926, Wheeler graduated from Westport High School in 1942. A third generation physician,[1] Wheeler entered Kansas City Junior College in 1942, transferring to University of Louisville in 1944 and earned a B.A. in 1946. From March 1944 through February 1946, Wheeler was simultaneously serving in the US Navy. In 1946, he entered the University of Kansas, earning an M.D. in 1950. His internship was at Charity Hospital in New Orleans in 1950.

He joined the US Air Force in July 1950, serving until July 1953 as a Captain and Flight Surgeon to the original group of the Thunderbirds, the Air Force aerial acrobatic team.[2]

He did his pathology residency at St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri from 1953 to 1955. At the same time, he began studying at night for a law degree at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, which he completed in 1959.

In 1957, he became an Associate Pathologist and Director of Laboratories at Kansas City General Hospital, followed by stints at Kansas City Research Hospital, North Kansas City Memorial Hospital, and the Independence Sanitarium and Hospital. He founded Wheeler Medical Laboratories in 1963.[2]

Dr. Wheeler began his public career when he was elected Coroner of Jackson County, Missouri in January 1965. He served in that office until January 1967, when he was elected as Judge of the Western District of the Jackson County Court until January 1971.[3]

Kansas City mayor[edit]

In 1971 he was elected to two consecutive terms as mayor of Kansas City. Although the office of mayor does not have a formal party affiliation in Kansas City, Wheeler is Democrat. During his tenure he oversaw the financing and construction of both the Kemper Arena and the Bartle Hall Convention Center. The combination of the two[4] enabled the city to host the 1976 Republican National Convention.[5]

Many regard this as the last golden age of Kansas City

— Ingram's Magazine

Towards the end of his second term, Kansas City gained international attention hosting a work by the artist Christo, the 2.5 mile long Wrapped Walk Ways in Loose Park. Wheeler presented Christo and his partner Jeanne-Claude with the key to the city.[6]

Kansas City International Airport opened in 1972 during his watch. It replaced the Kansas City Downtown Airport, which is now formally named for him. So much successful development happened during Wheeler's two terms as mayor that a 2002 profile in the conservative Kansas city business magazine Ingram's said: "Many regard this as the last golden age of Kansas City with the construction of KCI, Worlds of Fun, Crown Center, and the Truman Sports Complex."[1]

Wheeler ran for the U.S. Senate in 1976 and garnered less than 2% of the vote[7] in the Democratic primary in a race that was won by Jerry Litton, who died in a plane crash en route to the victory party in Kansas City. John C. Danforth ultimately won the position.

Wheeler ran for mayor of Kansas City one additional time in 2011,[8] but his candidacy did not survive the primary.

State Senator[edit]

Wheeler defeated Rep. Henry Rizzo in the August 6, 2002 Democratic primary, and his other opponent Rep. Tom Hoppe did not collect enough signatures to run as an Independent. No Republican ran in the election, and he was elected to the State Senate from the 10th District.[9]

He opposed a bill to outlaw the morning after pill, explaining that "From Monday through Saturday, we have to work in a secular world",[10] and was a co-sponsor of Missouri Senate Bill 458, the "Patient Protection Act" that would compel a pharmacist to fill any prescription.[11]

He did not concurrently seek re-election to the senate and was succeeded by Democrat Jolie Justus in the 10th district seat.

Post state senate elections[edit]

In 2006, at the age of 79, Wheeler ran for Jackson County Executive, but was defeated in the Democratic primary by county prosecutor Mike Sanders.[12]

In 2008, Wheeler ran for the Democratic nomination for Missouri State Treasurer. He placed fourth behind the nominee Clint Zweifel, Andria Simckes and Mark Powell.[13]

On March 28, 2016, at the age of 89 Wheeler filed to run for Governor of Missouri.[14] He placed third in the primary with 7.9 percent in an election won by Chris Koster who had 78.08 percent of the vote.[15]

Doctor in Politics[edit]

Wheeler was the only physician in the Missouri State Senate. Having authored "Doctor in Politics" in 1974, Wheeler is a frequent lecturer and speaker. He has served as Assistant Clinical Professor of Pathology, University of Kansas Medical School, as well as adjunct professor and consultant to the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine and the Henry W. Bloch School of Business and Public Administration.

Wheeler is an American Diplomat of the Board of Pathology, certified in Pathologic Anatomy and Clinical Pathology, and, Forensic Pathology. He is recipient of the American Medical Association's Benjamin Rush Award (1971), the University of Missouri-Kansas City Lifetime Achievement Award (1984), and the Kansas University Medical Distinguished Alumnus Award (1997).


  1. ^ a b "Players: Charles Wheeler, Jr". Ingram's: 12. August 2002. Archived from the original on 21 November 2008. Retrieved 24 July 2012. Many regard this as the last golden age of Kansas City with the construction of KCI, Worlds of Fun, Crown Center, and the Truman Sports Complex 
  2. ^ a b Lapham, Jim (September 26, 1971). "Our "Do It Now" Mayor". The Kansas City Star. pp. 6–11. Among his Air Force duties was that of serving as physician to the original Thunderbirds, the Air Force aerobatic team. 
  3. ^ Hacker, John (August 1, 2008). "Local Democrats hear from former KC mayor". Carthage Press. Retrieved 28 June 2012. [permanent dead link]
  4. ^ Garrison, Dale (January 2004). "Shoe-ins and Surprises: The Biggest Deals of the Past 30 Years". Ingram's. 30 (1). Archived from the original on 2004-02-07. 
  5. ^ Delaney, Paul (June 15, 1976). "Kansas City, the Fretful Host, Prepares For the G.O.P. Convention in August; Kansas City, Fretful Host, Preparing for the G.O.P." The New York Times. Retrieved 28 June 2012. 
  6. ^ Chernow, Burt (2002). Christo and Jeanne-Claude : a biography (1st U.S. ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 284. ISBN 0312280742. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Fortunately, KC mayor's race will be lively in 2011". Retrieved 1 July 2012. 
  9. ^ Hoover, Tim (August 14, 2002). "Wheeler unopposed after Hoppe bid fails". The Kansas City Star. p. B1. Retrieved 7 August 2012. 
  10. ^ Flory, Josh (February 14, 2006). "Pharmacist backs bill that would bar firings". Columbia Daily Tribune (Columbia, MO). Retrieved 8 January 2013. Sen. Charles Wheeler, a Kansas City Democrat and physician, questioned the pharmacist's stance. The senator told Williams that he wouldn't impose his Episcopalian beliefs on her when he practiced medicine and hoped she wouldn't thrust her Baptist beliefs on him. "From Monday through Saturday, we have to work in a secular world," Wheeler said. 
  11. ^ Lee, Betsy (August 9, 2005). "Pharmacists have place in the controversy over contraception". St. Joseph News-Press. Retrieved 8 January 2013. The "Patient Protection Act," or Missouri Senate bill 458, would force a pharmacist to fill any prescription unless the pharmacists' employer can accommodate the refusal without undue hardship to the employer or the customer. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Charles Wheeler of Kansas City and Sen. Joan Bray of St. Louis. 
  12. ^ Carter, Maria. "Sanders Wins County Executive Race". KCUR. Retrieved 29 June 2012. 
  13. ^ Raletz, Alyson E (March 25, 2008). "Jail and Deja Vu ; Last day of filing attracts more challengers to local state races". t. Joseph News-Press. Retrieved 8 January 2013. Four Democrats also are vying for the post -- Arnold Mayor Mark Powell, Rep. Clint Zweifel, of Florissant, Andria Simckes, of St. Louis, and Charles Wheeler, of Kansas City. 
  14. ^ "Unofficial Candidate Filing List". Missouri Secretary of State. March 29, 2016. Retrieved April 1, 2016. 
  15. ^ "Missouri Gubernatorial Primary results". Missouri Secretary of State. August 2, 2016. Archived from the original on August 1, 2016. Retrieved August 2, 2016. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Ilus W. Davis
Mayor of Kansas City, Missouri
Succeeded by
Richard L. Berkley
Missouri Senate
Preceded by
Harry Wiggins
Missouri State Senator from the 10th District
Succeeded by
Jolie Justus