One of Cincinnati's most storied political figures has died. According to family, William L. Mallory Sr. died peacefully Tuesday morning following an illness. He was 82.
Former Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory says his father could find inspiration in almost anything.
"He would be inspired by a thought, by a vision, by a natural landscape, and this would cause him to take on something new," says Mallory. "Sometimes it was poetry, sometimes it was legislation, sometimes it was activism... he was a deeply spiritual man."
Mallory Sr. grew up in the West End and went on to run for the Ohio House of Representatives in 1966. The Democrat served as assistant minority whip, minority whip, and assistant majority leader before becoming the first African-American to serve as majority floor leader - a position he held for a record 20 years.
In total, he spent 28 years in the Ohio General Assembly, sponsoring or co-sponsoring more than 600 bills.
Mallory will be laid to rest during a private service. A public memorial is being planned.
Mallory Sr. was born the son of a laborer and a maid on Oct. 4, 1931. At the age of 12 he became enamored with politics, often spending his days reading the newspapers and conversing with his mother’s physician, R.P. McClain, Cincinnati’s second African-American councilman.
He dropped out of school to work odd jobs to help provide for his family. Mark Mallory says his father held more than 80 jobs in his lifetime. A beloved teacher encouraged Mallory Sr. to get his GED after which he promptly enrolled at Central State University where he met his wife, Fannie.
Mallory Sr. spent several years working as a teacher and a case worker. In 1965, he became president of the West End Community Council, beginning a long political career. His son, Rep. Dale Mallory, says one of his father’s proudest achievements from early on was getting the city to install a traffic signal at a dangerous intersection. Though he once organized a neighborhood car pool during a bus drivers’ strike, Mallory Sr. never drove a car. In town, he would travel around by bus or on foot. When he was serving in the legislature, he would drive up with his friend, the late State Sen. William Bowen.
Another of Mallory Sr.’s biggest achievements has left an indelible mark on Hamilton County politics. In 1986, he and son Mark Mallory challenged, in federal court, the way the county elected municipal judges. At that time, they were elected in county-wide races, making it nearly impossible for an African-American to win. After a six-year battle, the Mallorys won and the county adopted the current district system for electing judges.
Though five out of six of his children went into politics, they say it wasn't something their father expected of them. "What was understood was that you were going to work in his campaigns," laughs Mark Mallory. He says his father loved to dance the jitterbug, play baseball, and BBQ.
"He made some mean baked beans," says Mark Mallory. "We can't tell you what his recipe was but we know it and those were some fantastic baked beans."