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Thomas A. Burke

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Thomas Burke
Burke in 1954
United States Senator
from Ohio
In office
November 10, 1953 – December 2, 1954
Appointed byFrank Lausche
Preceded byRobert A. Taft
Succeeded byGeorge H. Bender
48th Mayor of Cleveland
In office
January 4, 1945 – December 31, 1953
Preceded byFrank Lausche
Succeeded byAnthony J. Celebrezze
11th President of the United States Conference of Mayors
In office
Preceded byMartin H. Kennelly
Succeeded byElmer Robinson
Vice Mayor and Legal Director of Cleveland
In office
MayorFrank Lausche
Personal details
Born(1898-10-30)October 30, 1898
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
DiedDecember 5, 1971(1971-12-05) (aged 73)
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Alma materCollege of the Holy Cross (BA)
Case Western Reserve University (LLB)

Thomas Aloysius Burke (October 30, 1898 – December 5, 1971) was an American politician from Ohio. A member of the Democratic Party, he served as the 48th mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, from 1946 to 1953 and in the United States Senate from November 10, 1953 until December 2, 1954. Cleveland Burke Lakefront Airport is named after him.

Early life and education[edit]

Burke was born in Cleveland, Ohio on October 30, 1898. During World War I, Burke served in the United States Army.[1] In 1920, he graduated from the College of the Holy Cross and in 1923 he graduated from Western Reserve University School of Law.[2]

Early political career[edit]

In 1930, Burke became as assistant county prosecutor. In 1937, the Ohio Attorney General, Herbert S. Duffy commissioned an investigation of an election fraud case in Lawrence County, Ohio. Burke was appointed as the special counsel to prosecute the case of six people accused of breaking into the election board and tampering with votes for the county commissioner's race.[3] In 1941, Burke became vice mayor of Cleveland. He was also simultaneously the Director of Law for Cleveland, the city's chief legal advisor.[4]


With the election of Mayor Frank Lausche as governor of Ohio in 1944, Burke was first in the line of succession to replace him, and therefore became mayor on January 4, 1945.[5] Burke has to stand for re-election in his own right later in 1945, defeating Ray C. Miller with nearly 68% of the vote.[6][7]

In 1947, Burke faced off against Eliot Ness, the former Treasury agent who pursued Al Capone and later became the Cleveland Director of Public Safety. Despite Ness’ fame, Burke won re-election in a second landslide with more than 66% of the vote and a majority of more than 80,000 votes.[8] Burke went on to win two more times, in 1949 and 1951.

In 1947, the United States Army Corps of Engineers completed a retaining wall and landfill, the city completed work on a 3,600-foot dirt runway and opened its new downtown airport to air traffic.[9] Burke was credited with improvements at the site over the years and, in 1960, Municipal Airport was renamed Burke Lakefront for the former mayor.[10]

In 1953, Burke served as the president of the United States Conference of Mayors.[11]

United States Senate[edit]

On October 12, 1953, Governor Frank Lausche appointed Burke to succeed Robert A. Taft, who died of cancer on July 31, 1953, in the United States Senate. Burke took Taft's seat on November 10, after his term as mayor ended.[12] Burke ran against George H. Bender in the 1954 special election to serve out the remainder of Taft's term. Burke was defeated by only 7,070 votes and demanded a recount, which narrowed Bender's margin, but did not overturn the results.[13][14] After his defeat, Burke resumed the practice of law forming the influential Cleveland law firm of Burke, Haber and Berick (now McDonald Hopkins Burke and Haber).

Personal life[edit]

Burke was married to Josephine (Lyon) Burke and had two daughters. He died of undisclosed causes on December 5, 1971, at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center in Cleveland, where he'd been admitted the day before.[15] He was buried at Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland.[16]


  1. ^
    • United States Congress. "Thomas A. Burke (id: B001099)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  2. ^ "Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, Thomas A. Burke". Case Wester Reserve University. 31 January 2019. Retrieved 2020-05-27.
  3. ^ "River County Agog Over Trial Of Four Charged With Vote Irregularity". Cincinnati Enquirer. 1937-06-20.
  4. ^ "Ex-Mayor T. A. Burke of Cleveland Dies". The New York Times. 6 December 1971. Retrieved 1 November 2022.
  5. ^ "Cleveland City Charter" (PDF). City of Cleveland. Retrieved 2020-05-27.
  6. ^ "Burke, A Democrat Wins in Cleveland". New York Times. 1945-11-07.
  7. ^ "Thomas Burke Now Mayor of Cleveland". The Chronicle-Telegram. January 4, 1945. Retrieved 1 November 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  8. ^ "Upsets in Cities of Ohio". New York Times. 1947-11-06.
  9. ^ "Burke Lakefront Airport, the Landfill Airport". Cleveland Historical. Retrieved 2020-05-27.
  10. ^ "Vintage Cleveland: A look back at Burke Lakefront Airport". The Plain Dealer. 2016-08-12.
  11. ^ "Leadership". The United States Conference of Mayors. November 23, 2016. Retrieved July 24, 2020.
  12. ^ "Lausche Appoints Burke, Democrat, as Taft Successor". New York Times. 1953-10-13.
  13. ^ "Bender is Certified as Ohio Senator". New York Times. 1954-12-08.
  14. ^ "Defeated Senator Asks Ohio Recount". New York Times. 1954-11-11.
  15. ^ "Burke, 73, Dies". The Plain Dealer. December 6, 1971. pp. A1, A6.
  16. ^ "Death Notices". The Plain Dealer. December 7, 1971. p. D8.
Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Ohio
(Class 3)

Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Mayor of Cleveland
Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. senator (Class 3) from Ohio
Served alongside: John W. Bricker
Succeeded by