Saturday, October 26, 2013

Ortha Orrie Barr Sr. (1879-1958), Ortha Orrie Barr Jr. (1922-2003)

From the History of West Central Ohio, Volume III.

    This curiously named man is one Ortha Orrie Barr Sr., a two-term member of the Ohio State House of Representatives who was also an attorney and hotel operator in the city of Lima. The only son of Dr. Eugene Jacob and Sadie Michael Barr, Ortha Orrie Barr was born on February 24, 1879 in Clarke County, Ohio and at age six migrated to Allen County with his family. He is recorded as having attended schools local to that county and later studied at the "old Lima College". Barr went on to enroll at the University of Michigan Law School in his early twenties and graduated from this institution in the class of 1904.
  Following his return to Ohio Ortha Barr married in Lima on September 4, 1907 to Bertha Woerner (1881-1953) and later had four children, including: Catherina A. (died aged three), Robert Ortha (1910-1996), Margaret A. (1914-1999), Edna Barr Hunter (1915-2009) and Ortha Orrie Jr. (1922-2003). In the late 1900s, Barr took on a position as deputy sheriff of Allen County, serving under his father Eugene. In 1911 Ortha Barr became an assistant prosecuting attorney for Allen County and after four years in this capacity won election as Prosecuting Attorney, serving from 1915-1916. 
   During his service as prosecuting attorney Barr and his father began preparations to erect the fireproof Barr Hotel, and at the time of its opening in October 1916 stood seven stories and later gained notoriety as "the leading hotel" in Lima. Barr and his family continued to have an active role in operating the hotel for many decades afterward, even enlarging the original 88 room facility to 150 rooms. 

The Barr Hotel, from a postcard published in the 1920s.

   Active in Democratic party circles in Allen County, Barr was a member of the County Central Committee as well as being a member of the Allen County Bar Association. In November 1930 he was elected to represent Allen County in Ohio State House of Representatives. Taking his seat in January 1931 Barr served two terms in the legislature, the last of which concluded in 1935. Following his time in Ohio state government Barr continued his involvement in the family hotel and found further distinction in fraternal affairs in Lima, being a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a former grand master of the local Knights of Pythias chapter, and was an "esteemed lecturing knight" of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. In 1943 Barr became the President of the Lima Sertoma Club, serving one year in this post.
   In September 1953 Barr experienced tragedy with the loss of his wife Bertha in a truck-car accident in Auglaize County, Ohio. He and his wife had been returning from Indiana with another couple after celebrating their 46th wedding anniversary in Connersville. After entering Ohio Barr's car collided with a tractor-trailer truck during a rain storm near the town of Wapakoneta. The September 12th edition of the Lima News reported on the accident, noting that "Mrs. Barr was hurled from the vehicle, then pinned beneath the wreckage." Bertha W. Barr succumbed to her injuries shortly after the initial crash, and Ortha Barr and Mrs. Harvey Crider (a passenger in the car) were later transported to a nearby hospital for their injuries. 
   Following the loss of his wife, Barr was noted by the Lima News as being in a "deep shock" and later made a recovery from his auto injuries. In 1956 he sold off his interest in the Barr Hotel to one C.O. Porter and sometime later relocated to Hollywood, California, where he died on December 5, 1958 in a rest home in that city. He was 79 years old at the time of his death and was later returned to Ohio for burial in the Gethsemani Cemetery in his native city of Lima.

 From the Lima News, December 6, 1958. 

    In addition to Ortha O. Barr's career in the public forum, his son Ortha Orrie Barr Jr. also had fleeting involvement in Buckeye State politics, launching a candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives from Ohio in 1956. Hoping to represent the 4th congressional district of Ohio, O. Orrie Barr Jr. faced off against four term incumbent Republican William Moore McCullough (1901-1980) and in the November election Barr was defeated by a wide margin, 42, 416 to 93, 607. McCullough would later go on to serve seven more terms in Congress, retiring in 1973 after 26 years of service. In addition to his congressional candidacy, O. Orrie Barr Jr. was a WWII veteran and prisoner of war, and later followed in his father's footsteps, graduating from the University of Michigan in the early 1950s. He later became a attorney, and died on March 24, 2003, shortly after his 81st birthday. He was later interred at the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery in Rittman, Medinia County, Ohio.

Ortha Orrie Barr Jr. (1922-2003), from the 1951 Michiganensian Yearbook.

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