The bronze figure of James A. Rhodes being dedicated today in front of Government Center in downtown Toledo looks much like one in Columbus, but it seems to stand taller here because it was outside the state capital that the late governor made much of his imprint on Ohio and its people.
Like his statue, Mr. Rhodes was a larger-than-life incarnation of those people. More than most political figures, he spoke the language of the ordinary guy. That common touch helped him get elected governor four times for 16 years, longer than any other in Ohio history.
And yet Mr. Rhodes was a visionary when it came to public policy, capable of seeing the big picture as others grasped the minutiae. While others fumbled with the levers of power, he took charge with uncommon personal and persuasive skills and got things done.
In Toledo, that meant the founding of the Medical College of Ohio, which Mr. Rhodes facilitated by putting the school's future in capable local hands, including those of Paul Block, Jr., the late publisher of The Blade, who served as first chairman of the MCO board.
Another tribute to the distinguished memory of Jim Rhodes is Government Center, which he guided to fruition and before which his likeness now stands, figuratively striding across the Gov. James A. Rhodes Plaza. His name would be on the building itself, too, if not for a particularly despicable display of political partisanship of the kind that he worked so diligently throughout his long career to avoid.
Yes, Jim Rhodes was a Republican, the personification of "profit is not a dirty word," and proud of it. But his appeal transcended party lines. He undoubtedly would be uncomfortable in today's hyper-partisan atmosphere, in which political ideology frequently trumps cooperation.
And nothing represented the common good more for Jim Rhodes than public projects like Government Center, Rhodes State College in Lima, Owens Community College, Maumee Bay State Park, and all the other buildings and institutions that bear his fingerprints.
He also was a man of controversy and contradiction, hardly surprising for a public official who served over a span of nearly 60 years. But today, a little less than four years after his death at the ripe old age of 91, we celebrate the things he created as an untiring advocate for the state he loved.
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