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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History


The MAYORAL ADMINISTRATION OF ANTHONY J. CELEBREZZE (1953-62) came at a time when Cleveland's post-World War II prosperity was beginning to decline and employment and housing problems began to surface. Celebrezze received his law degree from Ohio Northern Univ. in 1936, and after working on the legal staff of the Ohio Bureau of Unemployment Compensation, opened a law office in Cleveland in 1939 and practiced for 13 years. Interested in politics, Celebrezze was elected to the Ohio senate in 1950. Although reelected to the senate in 1952, he chose to run for mayor of Cleveland in 1953 as an independent Democrat. Supported by Ohio governor FRANK LAUSCHE†, CLEVELAND PRESS editor LOUIS SELTZER†, and retiring mayor THOMAS BURKE†, he was elected to the first of 5 terms, easily defeating ALBERT PORTER† in the primaries, and Republican William J. McDermott in the general election. His popularity with Cleveland voters increased with each election, and in 1961 he carried every ward in Cleveland, capturing 73.8% of the total vote.

As mayor, Celebrezze organized the Cleveland Seaport Foundation to promote Cleveland as a world trade center. He also supported an $8 million Seaway bond issue, and helped initiate a $140 million urban-renewal program. During his administration, the rapid transit was completed connecting the east and west side, and major progress was made on the freeway system, designed to improve the flow of traffic in the county. With white flight to the SUBURBS, Cleveland's population mix changed, the proportion of AFRICAN AMERICANS increasing from 16.2% to 28.6% in the 1950s. The continuing in-migration of people and freeway building contributed to the shortage of affordable housing and overcrowding in the older neighborhoods, and a net decline in the number of available jobs in the area caused poor-relief costs to soar. To conserve money, the mayor transferred BLOSSOM HILL SCHOOL FOR GIRLS, the Hudson Boys Farm, and City Hospital to the county in 1957. Celebrezze resigned as mayor in 1962 to become Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare in the Kennedy-Johnson administrations. In 1965 he was appointed federal judge for the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, serving until 1980 when he retired from active service on the bench and assumed senior status.

Anthony J. Celebrezze Papers, WRHS.

Last Modified: 18 Jul 1997 03:53:30 PM

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