FINDLAY — Six members of Congress have called Hancock County home, ending with former U.S. Rep. Michael G. Oxley, and that outsized civic role is highlighted in a new exhibit at the Hancock Historical Museum funded by Mr. Oxley.
Mr. Oxley, U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R., Ohio), and some 300 others helped dedicate the new “Oxley Government Center” on Monday with a private dedication on the museum lawn under tents and with refreshments that included Toledo-made Buckeye Beer among the beverages.
The exhibit is designed to primarily serve fourth-grade classrooms and be part of day-long programs in civics. It occupies two rooms in the museum on Sandusky Street, which are decorated with photographs, interactive touch screens, and objects relating to the civic leaders who lived in Hancock County. The biggest single item is the desk used by the late former U.S. Rep. Jackson Betts, who called himself a “country congressman” and who served from 1951 to 1973.
One wall is dedicated to Mr. Oxley, and it features photos of him with dignitaries such as President George H.W. Bush, his congressional license plate, and the gavel he used to chair the House Committee on Financial Services from 2001 to 2006.
Mr. Oxley said the aim of the center is to teach children that, “our system of government is pretty special.” He said it is sometimes taken for granted. The center will encourage civic leadership of all kinds.
“You don’t have to be elected to office to make a difference. The five guys that started this museum never ran for office and yet they were just titans in what they did,” Mr. Oxley said.
Mr. Boehner, whose district is in southwestern Ohio, attended the dedication and said he has known Mr. Oxley for the last 30 years, including about 17 years during which they served together in Congress. Mr. Boehner returns today to Washington after the Independence Day break.
“When you look through Congressman Oxley’s career, you can see he was your typical Republican who believed in personal responsibility, [who was a] friend of the business community — those who create jobs in America,” Mr. Boehner said.
Mr. Oxley co-authored the law that governs publicly traded companies, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. He was known as one of the GOP’s biggest fund-raisers and the top recipient of campaign cash from the accounting industry.
He was elected to the 4th District in 1981 and did not run for re-election in 2006, and was succeeded by U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, a Republican from Champaign County. Findlay and Hancock County are now part of the 5th District, represented by Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green).
Today, Mr. Oxley, 70, lives in Washington’s Virginia suburbs. He is a senior adviser to the board of NASDAQ and works “of counsel,” or part-time, with the Washington law firm BakerHostetler.
The exhibit features portraits of the six members of Congress who lived in Hancock County — William Mungen (1867-1871), Ralph D. Cole, Sr., (1905-1911), R. Clinton Cole (1919-1925), Mr. Betts, Tennyson Guyer (1973-1981), and Mr. Oxley. Mr. Mungen was a Democrat. The rest were Republicans.
Mr. Oxley said that Hancock County was never the largest in any of its congressional districts.
“Hancock County has a rich legacy of civic leadership,” Mr. Oxley said. He said the project started when he was approached by two museum representatives who sought his help to create an exhibit dedicated to civic service.
The privately funded museum is set in a Victorian-style home with the rooms furnished as they would have been in the past. The museum serves about 13,000 visitors per year, including 3,000 students — about a quarter of the county’s school population, according to Executive Director Sarah Sisser.
“The center is really 30,000 feet above anything we’ve done before,” Ms. Sisser said. She said Mr. Oxley’s contribution was “substantial,” but declined to give the amount.
The center has interactive kiosks with touch screens and audiovisual displays focusing on the responsibilities of U.S. citizenship and government. The displays are geared toward the fourth-grade state curriculum guidelines, but will be functional and open to anyone who visits the museum.
The exhibit was designed by LF Creative Group with studios in Bowling Green and Cincinnati.
“We’re happy to have his story told here. It’s an important story of civic leadership and that’s what we’re trying to promote with the center,” Ms. Sisser said. “We tried to show that our community has fostered a lot of civic leaders and we hope to continue that tradition by inspiring our youth.”
The government center also has a wall featuring the history of the Findlay Courier newspaper and exhibits exploring the First Amendment.