Indiana News

Former Governor Bowen Dead at 95

Republican also served as HHS Secretary under Reagan


(Photo courtesy of IUPUI)

Former Governor Otis “Doc” Bowen, who also served in the cabinet of President Ronald Reagan's during his second term, has died.  

Governor Pence's office says Bowen died Saturday evening at the Catherine Kasper Life Center in Donaldson.  He was 95.  "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 in a statement 

The Republican was elected governor in 1972 and served two terms in office, the first to serve two consecutive terms after a change in the state constitution allowed it.  Bowen previously served seven terms in the state House, including consecutive terms from 1960 to 1972 - he was Speaker of the House for his last five years in the General Assembly.

While governor, Bowen was best known for controlling the growth of property taxes, shifting much of the tax burden to income and sales taxes.  Also, in 1979, Bowen famously 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 police officer during the Pan American Games.

"Doc Bowen was 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," said former U.S. Senator Dick Lugar. "Whether it was a call from a patient, a constituent, or his country, Doc could not refuse to serve."
Born in Fulton County, Bowen received two Bachelor's degrees from IU in 1939 and graduated from the university's medical school three years later.  After serving in the Army Medical Corps during World War II, Bowen went into private medical practice before beginning his career in politics.

"Indiana lost a humble giant whose soft spoken, yet firm convictions influenced many Hoosiers, including me. The good doctor and good governor will long be remembered as an example of political leadership and human decency," said Senator Dan Coats.

After leaving the govenor's office in January 1981, Bowen returned to the medical world as a professor of family medicine at IU. “Doc Bowen was a healer, a leader and a wonderful representative of Indiana University, both as a student and throughout his career as a physician, educator and political leader,” said IU President Michael McRobbie in a news release. “He was an extraordinarily impressive man who leaves behind a legacy of immense accomplishment that will be felt across Indiana and the nation for decades to come.”

In 1985, President Reagan named Bowen as his Secretary of Health and Human Services, the first medical doctor to hold the post.   After Reagan was initially criticized for not paying enough attention to the outbreak of AIDS, Bowen helped promote public awareness of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, mailing pamphlets to 107 million households with explicit advice on how to avoid HIV, including the use of condoms.  During a news conference in 1987, Bowen's advice on the spread of AIDS and other diseases was straightforward: "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 married Elizabeth Ann Steinmann in 1939, and they had four children—Judy, Robert, Richard, and Tim. They were married 42 years until Beth Bowen's death from cancer on January 1, 1981. In September 1981, Bowen married childhood friend Rose Mary Hochstetler Bowen, who also died of cancer in January 1992.  Bowen married Carol Lynn Flosenzier Mikesell, a former patient, in 1993 after Bowen had retired to his home in Bremen.  Bowen published his autobiography, Doc: Memories from a Life in Public Service, in 2000.

Pence has ordered all flags at state facilities to be flown at half-staff to honor Bowen. 
Funeral Services will be held Friday in his homtown of Bremen. Mishler Funeral Home on Bremen announced Sunday that the funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Bremen.

 The calling hours will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday and 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the church.




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