Funeral for Ex-Ind. governor, HHS head Otis Bowen, to be held Friday

By: Associated Press Email
By: Associated Press Email
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Otis R. Bowen, a small-town family doctor who overhauled Indiana's tax system as governor before helping promote safe sex practices in the early years of AIDS as the top federal health official under President Reagan, died Saturday. He was 95.

A funeral service will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, May 10 at St. Paul's Lutheran Church located at the 605 S Center St. in Bremen. Friends may call from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 8, and between 4:00-8:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 9.

In a statement Sunday, Gov. Mike Pence said Bowen died Saturday. He did not disclose the cause of death.

"Governor Otis R. Bowen's contributions to the life of this state and nation are incalculable, and I mark his passing with a sense of personal loss. His story is as inspiring as it is uniquely Hoosier," Pence said.

Bowen, known among Hoosiers for decades as "Doc," was a doctor in the northern Indiana town of Bremen when he first was elected to office in 1952 as Marshall County coroner, starting a political rise that saw him become a wildly popular Republican governor during 1973-81.

He became secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 1985, taking charge of the federal government's response to the spread of AIDS after the Reagan administration had been criticized by activists for a slow initial response.

Bowen promoted public awareness of the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases and worked with Surgeon General C. Everett Koop on the mailing to 107 million households of a pamphlet with explicit advice on how to avoid the AIDS virus, including using condoms.

During a 1987 news conference, Bowen gave a bit of advice that entered the national lexicon: "Remember, when a person has sex, they're not just having it with that partner, they're having it with everybody that partner had it with for the past 10 years."

Bowen, the stocky, bespectacled speaker of the Indiana House, won the state's top office in a landslide in 1972, beating former Democratic Gov. Matthew Welsh.

Bowen made state-backed property tax relief his top campaign pledge as those taxes had more than doubled in the previous decade. Legislation passed the next year doubled the sales tax to 4 percent and dedicating the extra revenue to property tax cuts. The proposal was so hotly contested that it only passed the state Senate when Bowen's lieutenant governor, Robert D. Orr, cast a tiebreaking vote.

State Democrats responded with bumper stickers that said, "What's Up Doc? Taxes! Vote Democratic." But the public largely embraced the tax reforms, boosting Bowen's popularity.

Under an amendment to the state constitution, he was the first governor since the mid-1800s eligible to seek a second consecutive term and easily won re-election in 1976 over Indiana Secretary of State Larry Conrad.

In 1979, Bowen refused to extradite Indiana University basketball coach Bob Knight to Puerto Rico after the coach was convicted in absentia and sentenced to six months in jail for hitting a policeman during the Pan Am Games.

Republican leaders wanted Bowen to challenge Democratic Sen. Birch Bayh in 1980, but he declined as his wife, Beth, was in the midst of cancer treatment. His decision cleared the way for Dan Quayle, then a 33-year-old congressman, to win the GOP nomination and unseat Bayh.

Beth Bowen died on New Year's Day 1981 after more than 40 years of marriage and just days before her husband's second gubernatorial term ended.

Bowen was born Feb. 26, 1918, near the northern Indiana town of Rochester. He received bachelor's and medical degrees from Indiana University and joined the Army Medical Corps after completing his internship in 1943. His World War II service included going ashore with the first waves of Allied troops during the invasion of Okinawa in 1945.

He then returned to Indiana and, in 1946, started a family medical practice in Bremen, a small town about 20 miles south of South Bend, which he continued for 25 years.

Bowen once said his medical career, during which he estimated he delivered 3,000 babies, taught him "how to approach emergencies and problems with a certain amount of calmness and common sense."

Former U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar says Otis "Doc" Bowen couldn't refuse to serve.

Lugar issued a statement Sunday mourning the loss of the former two-term Indiana governor and Health and Human Services secretary under President Reagan. The 95-year-old Bowen died Saturday night in a northern Indiana nursing home.

Lugar says, "Whether it was a call from a patient, a constituent, or his country, Doc could not refuse to serve."

He calls Bowen "the best example of public leader in our state and nation because of his demeanor, intellect, wisdom and range of abilities that brought achievement and success to everything he did."


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