Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Bowles, Charles

Detroit mayor Charles Bowles was born in Yale, Michigan on March 24, 1884. He graduated from what is now known as Ferris State University in 1904, received a law degree from the University of Michigan in 1908, and was admitted to the bar the following year.

In 1925, Bowles ran for mayor of Detroit following the resignation of Frank E. Doremus. While he was eliminated in the primary election, Bowles continued as a write-in candidate and nearly won. After losing the election, he became the judge on the recorder’s court. He was re-elected in this position, but resigned in 1929 to run for mayor once more. Bowles defeated John C. Lodge in the primary election and John W. Smith in the general election and was sworn in as Detroit’s 58th mayor in 1930. The previous decade had seen increased racial tension and the resurfacing of the Ku Klux Klan, who supported Bowles and likely pushed him to victory.

After just six months in office, Bowles was recalled after he fired the police commissioner. Detroit citizens accused him of “tolerating lawlessness.” In the subsequent election, he lost to Frank Murphy. Following his defeat, Bowles returned to the practice of law and made several unsuccessful bids for seats in the state legislature and Congress. He died July 30, 1957 and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Detroit.



"Elect Charles Bowles Mayor" Poster, 1929 - 2018.047.001

Charles Bowles Report, 1930

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