OUT & ABOUT: Charles Bowser’s Passing

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BY DENISE CLAY/ As I was running errands, I got an email on my Blackberry from the Mayor’s office that informed me, and all of the other reporters who get things from Mayor Michael Nutter’s office, that Charles Bowser Sr. had died. He was 80.

In addition to being a Deputy Mayor of the city from 1967 to 1969, executive director of the Philadelphia Urban Coalition, and an executive director of the Philadelphia Anti-Poverty Action Committee, Bowser had been a pioneering civil-rights attorney.

He was also one of the many African American politicians who had tried to become the city’s first Black Mayor before the city itself was ready to make that change, a change that allowed Nutter, and his predecessors W. Wilson Goode and John F. Street, to realize the dream.

“Charlie Bowser was a great man, a great lawyer, a friend to many, a leader of a movement that led not only to Black empowerment politically, socially and economically, but also brought Blacks, Whites, Latinos and Asians to a better understanding of our united power,” Nutter said. “He gave me and many others wise advice, and whenever I saw my neighbor walking down the street or at his home, I knew that I was in the presence of greatness. This city has suffered a great loss, but we would not be the great city that we are but for Charlie’s influence, insight and personal strength.”

State Rep. Mark Cohen took to Philly.com to sing Mr. Bowser’s praises. “Charles Bowser was a superb lawyer who had a knack for getting to the heart of a legal issue and making a compelling presentation of the relevant facts. An eloquent, articulate, thoughtful man, he raised the bar as to what was expected of a mayoral candidate and a Mayor. If he had won the opportunity to serve as Mayor, his thoroughness, incisiveness, and intellectual integrity would have produced an excellent administration of which Philadelphians would have long been proud. I am one of many thousands of Philadelphians who will miss him greatly.”

But where I remember hearing Charles Bowser, Sr.’s name for the first time was when the City held hearings into the MOVE confrontation in 1985. Bowser was among those selected to look into the incident, which began with a bomb and ended with several dead, a lot of folks injured, and a city block that is still not quite what it used to be.

Because he was a civil-rights attorney, and people being burned out of their homes was a definite violation of civil rights, Bowser was less than pleased with how the city under Mayor Goode conducted itself during this confrontation.

Bowser was a 1948 graduate of Central HS and an alumnus of Temple University’s School of Journalism. He received his law degree from Temple as well and was also an administrator at his alma mater.

At press time, funeral arrangements for Bowser were not available. Once we get them here at the Public Record, we will make sure to get them to you.

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One Response to OUT & ABOUT: Charles Bowser’s Passing

  1. This is interesting, post more often!. A wide variation of different opinions create interest.

    February 9, 2011 at 11:00 am

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