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Henry Maier

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Henry Maier
Maier in the 1960s
42nd Mayor of Milwaukee
In office
April 18, 1960 – April 18, 1988
Preceded byFrank Zeidler
Succeeded byJohn Norquist
President of the United States Conference of Mayors
In office
Preceded byJames Tate
Succeeded byLouie Welch
Member of the Wisconsin Senate
from the 9th district
In office
January 1, 1951 – April 1960
Preceded byRobert Emmet Tehan
Succeeded byNorman Sussman
Personal details
Henry Walter David Nelke

(1918-02-07)February 7, 1918
Dayton, Ohio, U.S.
DiedJuly 17, 1994(1994-07-17) (aged 76)
Delafield, Wisconsin, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
EducationUniversity of Wisconsin, Madison (BA)
University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee (MA)
Military service
AllegianceUnited States
Branch/serviceUnited States Navy
Battles/warsWorld War II

Henry Walter Maier (February 7, 1918 – July 17, 1994) was an American politician and the longest-serving mayor of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, holding office from 1960 to 1988. A Democrat, Maier was a powerful and controversial figure, presiding over an era of economic and political turbulence for the city of Milwaukee.

Early life[edit]

Maier was born Henry Walter David Nelke in Dayton, Ohio. After his father died, he moved with his mother to Springfield, Ohio to live with his grandparents. He graduated from Springfield High School in 1936. When his mother moved to Milwaukee and married contractor Charles Maier, Nelke accompanied her. He changed his name to Henry Walter Maier in 1938.

Maier served in the United States Navy during World War II. He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and a master's degree from University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. Maier was in the insurance business and taught workers' compensation and general liability insurance at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.[1]

Political career[edit]

A member of the Democratic Party, Maier was elected to the Wisconsin State Senate in 1950. In 1960 he was elected Milwaukee's mayor, succeeding Frank Zeidler, the last of Milwaukee's Socialist mayors. Maier's term included the 1967 Milwaukee riot, a response by the African-American community to a host of issues including housing discrimination and police brutality. (Maier's opposition to the Civil Rights Movement caused constant friction with his administration and Milwaukee's non-white residents). Maier remained in office for 28 years, succeeded by John Norquist in 1988. He was the longest-serving mayor in Milwaukee history.

In 1971 and 1972, he served as president of the United States Conference of Mayors.[2] A 1993 survey of historians, political scientists and urban experts conducted by Melvin G. Holli of the University of Illinois at Chicago ranked Maier as the fourteenth-best American big-city mayor to have served between the years 1820 and 1993.[3]

Later life, death, and legacy[edit]

In 1993, Maier wrote a political memoir: The Mayor Who Made Milwaukee Famous. He died of pneumonia at age 76 at his home in Delafield, Wisconsin. Henry Maier Festival Park, where Summerfest is held, was named in his honor.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wisconsin Legislative Reference Library (comp.). The Wisconsin Blue Book 1960. Madison: State of Wisconsin, 1960, p. 21.
  2. ^ "Leadership". The United States Conference of Mayors. November 23, 2016. Retrieved July 24, 2020.
  3. ^ Holli, Melvin G. (1999). The American Mayor. University Park: PSU Press. ISBN 0-271-01876-3.
  4. ^ "Henry W. Maier: 1918-1994-Maier Leaves Mixed Legacy". Milwaukee Sentinel, July 18, 1994, p. 11A.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Wisconsin
(Class 3)

Succeeded by
Wisconsin Senate
Preceded by Member of the Wisconsin Senate from the 9th district
January 1, 1951 – April 1960
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Mayor of Milwaukee
Succeeded by