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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Mister Mayor

Founded in 1812, Evansville has a long history of accomplished leaders, including our elected mayors.

Counting Mayor Lloyd Winnecke who has served since 2012, Evansville has had 36 mayors in total. In this picture from the University of Southern Indiana’s David L. Rice Digital Library taken in 1946, seven of the city’s most prominent former mayors are seen together in a rare, historic moment.

From left to right, Charles Covert, John William Boehne Sr., William Elmendorf, Herbert Males, Frank Griese, William Dress, and Manson Reichert posed in front of Boehne’s home on Lincoln Avenue to celebrate his 90th birthday. The seven men served roughly a combined 50 years in the mayor’s office.

Charles Covert was mayor from 1901 to 1906. Born in 1863, he would have been about 83 years old at the time of this photo. While not many details can be found about his political career, the few acting performances he gave prior have also been documented in historic photos. 

Although he was older, John William Boehne Sr. served after Covert; from 1906 to 1909. Boehne had a successful run in politics, even leaving Evansville after being elected to Congress as a Democrat in 1909 and 1913. While he died shortly after this photograph on Dec. 27, 1946, his legacy lives on. In 1983, the John W. Boehne House was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Two other former mayors with few records left behind, William H. Elmdendorf served from 1922 to 1926 and Frank Griese from 1930 to 1935. But a lasting reputation isn’t always positive. Herbert Males, who served from 1926 to 1930, is remembered for his unfortunate involvement with the Evansville Ku Klux Klan.

Males once admitted to this involvement before the U.S. Senate in 1926 and was elected as Evansville Mayor by a KKK-controlled Republican party. The intricate puzzle pieces behind Males election were unpacked in the July/August 2011 issue of Evansville Living.

Serving from 1935 to 1943, William H. Dress was a historic mayor for Evansville. He moved to the city in 1897 from his native town of Zanesville, Ohio. An active member of the West Side Nut Club and once the club’s President, Dress was the first mayor to return to office for a third term in 1948. Unfortunately, he did not complete this term and died in office Nov. 10, 1949.

Mayor at the time of this photo, Manson Reichert still is considered one of Evansville’s most notable leaders. He served an unprecedented five years from 1943 to 1948 (in between Dress’ second and third terms) due a change in the state’s municipal election laws the year he was elected. Reichert also was the first — and only — mayor arrested while in office in 1947.

All of Reichert’s colorful history was revealed in the May/June 2015 issue of Evansville Living.

Despite mistakes and triumphs, criminal activity, and partially unknown legacies, these seven men were crucial in constructing modern Evansville.

Photo provided by USI digital archives.

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Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen is the managing editor of Evansville Living and Evansville Business magazines.

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