James Bowler

James Bernard Bowler (February 5, 1875 – July 18, 1957) was an American politician from Chicago, Illinois. He served three terms as a United States Representative for Illinois. Elected at age 78, Bowler is the second oldest person to win his first election to Congress, after William Lewis of Kentucky.

James B. Bowler
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 7th district
In office
July 7, 1953 – July 18, 1957
Preceded byAdolph J. Sabath
Succeeded byRoland V. Libonati
Chicago Alderman from the 25th Ward
In office
February 26, 1935[1] – July 11, 1953[1]
Succeeded byVito Marzullo
In office
1927 – June 7, 1934[1]
Preceded byJohn Powers[1]
Chicago Alderman from the 19th Ward
In office
1906 – 1923
With John Powers
Preceded by????
Succeeded by????
Personal details
Born(1875-02-05)February 5, 1875
Chicago, Illinois
DiedJuly 18, 1957(1957-07-18) (aged 82)
Chicago, Illinois
Resting placeAll Saints Cemetery
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Anastasia V. Sweeney
OccupationChicago Alderman
U.S. Congressman

Early lifeEdit

Bowler was born in Chicago, Illinois on February 5, 1875.[2] He attended the parochial and public schools of Chicago, and was a professional bicycle endurance rider and racer[2] before running for Alderman. He later became involved in the insurance business and was the owner of several race horses, both ventures he acquired from the family of John Coughlin following Coughlin's death.[3]


Chicago politicsEdit

He became an Alderman (City Councilman) for Chicago's 19th Ward in 1906, serving alongside John Powers.[1] When Anthony D'Andrea ran against Bowler in 1916, the violence during the election sparked the five-year-long Aldermen's Wars, which saw thirty political operatives killed.

Bowler served on the Chicago City Council until 1953, with hiatuses from 1923 to 1927 when he served as Chicago's Commissioner of Compensation, and in 1934, when he was Chicago's Commissioner of Vehicle Licenses. He served as chairman of several committees, including Rules and Finance, and was the council's President pro tempore for eight years. His 42 years on the City Council made him one of the longest-serving Aldermen in Chicago history. From 1927–1934 and 1945–1953, he was the alderman from the 25th Ward.[1]

Bowler was chairman of the City Council's remapping committee in 1923 when it became apparent that the fairest map would redistrict him out of his own 19th Ward. Without hesitation, he proceeded to remap himself out of the City Council. Four years later, he ran in the new ward in which he found himself residing, the 25th, and won.


In 1953, he became a U.S. Representative for Illinois' 7th District. He was elected as a Democrat to the Eighty-third Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Adolph J. Sabath. He was reelected to the Eighty-fourth and Eighty-fifth Congresses and served from July 7, 1953, until his death.

During his later years, Bowler suffered from arthritis and other ailments, and walked with the aid of a cane.[4] During his final term, he was confined to a hospital bed and unable to attend House sessions, and his oath of office was administered in Chicago by Congressman Charles A. Boyle.[5]

Bowler is considered to have been one of the five individuals most responsible for pushing through legislation that helped fund the building of the Congress Street (now Eisenhower) Expressway in Chicago. He also was instrumental in creating the Illinois Medical District in Chicago, which contains several hospitals and other healthcare providers.

Personal lifeEdit

Raftis-Bowler-Shea mausoleum at All Saints Cemetery

In 1905, Bowler was appearing in Salt Lake City as a member of a bicycle racing team when he married Anastasia V. Sweeney of Chicago, who had traveled to Salt Lake City for the ceremony.[6][7]

Bowler died in Chicago on July 18, 1957.[2] He had been ill for several years following a heart attack and suffered from complications from arthritis.[8] He was buried at All Saints Cemetery, Des Plaines, Illinois.[2]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Centennial List of Mayors, City Clerks, City Attorneys, City Treasurers, and Aldermen, elected by the people of the city of Chicago, from the incorporation of the city on March 4, 1837 to March 4, 1937, arranged in alphabetical order, showing the years during which each official held office". Archived from the original on September 4, 2018. Retrieved December 24, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d James Bernard Bowler, Late a Representative, p. 5.
  3. ^ "Congressman James Bowler is Dead at 82", p. Part 2, Page 8.
  4. ^ James Bernard Bowler, Late a Representative, pp. 14–15.
  5. ^ James Bernard Bowler, Late a Representative, pp. 16–17.
  6. ^ James Bernard Bowler, Late a Representative, p. 12.
  7. ^ "Racing Man is Caught", p. 3.
  8. ^ "Congressman Dies"; Harrisburg Daily Register; Harrisburg, Illinois; Page 10; July 18, 1957




Further readingEdit

  • Bike, William S. Streets of the Near West Side. Chicago: ACTA Publications, 1996, p. 22-23.

External linksEdit

  This article incorporates public domain material from the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress website http://bioguide.congress.gov.

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 7th congressional district

July 7, 1953 - July 18, 1957
Succeeded by