Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Evelena Lowell Bodey (1867-1942)

                                                    Portrait from the 1917 History of Champaign County, Ohio.

    Our theme of oddly named mayors continues and today visits Champaign County, Ohio and one E.L. Bodey, one of many political figures I've found whose full name was located via the website Find-A-Grave. While perusing a list of past mayors of Urbana, Ohio I came across the abbreviated name of "E.L. Bodey", and after completing a Find-A-Grave search of Champaign County residents with that last name I was rewarded with the name of "Evelena Lowell Bodey", born on January 28, 1867. Soon after this, I located a biography for Mr. Bodey (again listed as just "E.L."), published in the 1913 edition of The Democratic Party of the State of Ohio, and, as you may have guessed, the birth-date was a spot on match! With a rather feminine sounding first name like "Evelena" it makes one wonder if Bodey preferred being known by just his initials! Despite his being saddled with an odd first name, Bodey's career as an attorney blossomed during the early 20th century, and in 1907 was elected as Mayor of Urbana, Ohio, the county seat of Champaign County.
   The son of Christian Bodey (a minister in the United Brethren Church) and the former Naomi Sheppard, Evelena Lowell Bodey was born in Adams township, Ohio. His early life was spent on his family's farm, and he would attend the district schools for a time. He is recorded as having quit school at a young age but would continue his studies at home. At age 19 Bodey was awarded a teaching certificate and began teaching in Concord township shortly afterward. For over a decade he would teach in various schools throughout Champaign County and during this time began reading law under the tutelage of St. Paris, Ohio attorney Charles E. Buroker
   On Valentine's Day 1888 Bodey married to Rachel M. Grove (1864-1944). The couple would be wed for over fifty years, and this lengthy marriage would see the births of two children, Lowell Carlton (1891-1945) and Ruth, who died aged two in 1899. A resident of Mad River, Ohio in the late 1890s, Bodey became a Democratic candidate for the Ohio State House of Representatives in 1898. Facing off against Republican nominee Henry Harrison Brecount, Bodey came up short in the vote count on election day, losing to Brecount by a "plurality of 529."
    Admitted to the state bar in July 1900, E.L. Bodey would establish his first law practice in Urbana, Ohio early in 1901. In the succeeding years, he built up a reputation as one of Urbana's prominent attorneys, whilst also paying close attention to local politics. He would serve as a justice of the peace and was also a candidate for Champaign County prosecuting attorney. In 1907 Bodey was elected as Mayor of Urbana, and his two-year term in that office was remarked by the St. Paris News Dispatch as having been:
"An enviable one. Without fear or favor, he has enforced the law and the ordinances of the city, and Urbana never had a better mayor."
   In the first year of his mayoralty, Bodey was again the Democratic candidate for the state legislature, running against Republican nominee William Guard. In its October 22nd edition, The Dispatch gave a glowing resume to Urbana's incumbent mayor, noting:
"While Mr. Bodey is Democrat, he belives that his first duty is to the county which has always been his home and to whose interests he is devoted. It is his ambition to serve in the Halls of the State Legislature. It is believed that his ambition will be gratified, for many Republicans will support him on the grounds that he is; clean and able; that he is of the county and truly representative of it; that he will do his own thinking and act deliberately; and that his experience and life have fitted him for legislative work....Let all good citizens vote for E.L. Bodey."
From the St. Paris News Dispatch, October 22, 1908.

   On election day 1908 it was William L. Guard who was elected as Champaign County's representative, defeating Bodey by only 552 votes. Bodey served out the remainder of his term as Mayor and left office in 1910. He would return to practicing law and for twenty-nine years operated an Urbana-based firm with former state Senator Sherman Deaton. This practice later added the name of Bodey's son Lowell to its title, and the firm of Deaton, Bodey and Bodey would be retained as counsel for several Ohio business concerns, including the Erie Railway Company, the Ohio Electric Railway Company and the Howard Paper Company. 
    In 1926 E.L. Bodey saw his son elected as Judge of the Urbana Court of Common Pleas. The elder Bodey continued to be active in Urbana public life well into his twilight years, and in late June 1942 suffered the loss of his law partner Sherman Deaton. Bodey followed him in death just sixteen days later on July 3, 1942, after an "extended illness." He was survived by his wife Rachel and son Lowell, both of whom died within three years of Bodey. All three were interred at the Spring Grove Cemetery in St. Paris, Ohio.

Bodey's obituary from the July 9, 1942 edition of the St. Paris News Dispatch.

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