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Published: Tuesday, 11/12/2013

Gillmor portrait unveiled in Ohio Statehouse

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF
Paul Michael, left, Adam, and Connor Gillmor stand with the official portrait of their father, ex-Senate President Paul Gillmor, during a Statehouse ceremony on Tuesday. Toledo artist Leslie Adams painted the portrait that will hang in the Senate Caucus room. Paul Michael, left, Adam, and Connor Gillmor stand with the official portrait of their father, ex-Senate President Paul Gillmor, during a Statehouse ceremony on Tuesday. Toledo artist Leslie Adams painted the portrait that will hang in the Senate Caucus room.
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COLUMBUS — Upon his death in 2007, Paul Gillmor, congressman and former state Senate president, joined a select few in history to lie in repose in the Ohio Statehouse rotunda.

Now he will join the elite club of political dignitaries whose portraits line the walls of the building where he spent more than two decades representing his northwest Ohio district.

Mr. Gillmor’s portrait by Toledo artist Leslie Adams was unveiled Tuesday at a Statehouse ceremony honoring his four-decade political career. Her paintings of former governors Bob Taft and Ted Strickland, among others, already hang in Statehouse hearing rooms and in the nearby Ohio Judicial Center.

Mr. Gillmor’s portrait will hang in the Senate majority caucus room, where current Senate President Keith Faber (R., Celina) said he once worked to hand Republicans control of the chamber, a grip that has grown tighter during the years since.

Mr. Faber noted that Senate Republicans will next year celebrate the 30th anniversary of the longest partisan legislative majority in state history. Republicans today outnumber Democrats in the chamber 23-10.

“Paul was the architect of this unparalleled success,” Mr. Faber said.

Ms. Adams relied on family and historical photographs, family memories, and even the way his three sons — Paul Michael, Adam, and Connor — carry themselves today. The portrait depicts Mr. Gillmor circa 1989 near the close of his Senate career.

Ms. Adams, who never met him, painted him with the Senate building’s marble grand staircase behind him to capture the era.

“It was really difficult to figure out how to incorporate him at the time period that [former state Sen. Karen Gillmor], his wife, wanted me to portray him, and the actual setting,” Ms. Adams said. “The grand staircase was finished. He was in Washington longer than he was [Senate president]. I thought this portrait exemplified both.”

The painting depicts him wearing his Senate president diamond pin and 33rd Masonic ring. Ms. Adams worked primarily from a small black-and-white photograph and consulted with his family when it came to coloring.

Mr. Gillmor, born in Tiffin and raised in Old Fort, was first elected in 1966 to the state Senate while he was still an Air Force lieutenant based in Tennessee. He served as the chamber’s president from 1981 to 1983 and again from 1985 to 1989. That was before he headed to Washington to represent a geographically huge 5th District that stretched across much of rural northwest Ohio.

Gov. John Kasich recalled starting out as a Senate intern under Mr. Gillmor.

“He’d give me a wink, and he’d kind of put his arm around my shoulder and made me feel 10 feet tall as a 23, 24-year-old kid,” he said. Mr. Kasich later became a state senator and beat Mr. Gillmor to Congress.

Mr. Gillmor’s political career came to a premature end when, at 68 years of age, he fell down the steps of the Arlington, Va., townhouse he used while in Washington. His accidental death set in motion a political chain reaction that affected area congressional and Ohio Senate and House seats.

Mr. Gillmor was replaced by U.S. Rep. Bob Latta in the 5th District, who originally lost to Mr. Gillmor upon his first election by a scant 27 votes.

Mr. Gillmor’s widow, Karen, ultimately picked up his political torch for the second time in the state Senate, representing much of the Tiffin-based district he had worked for two decades earlier. Since 2011, she has served on the Ohio Industrial Commission.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.



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