Former Ohio Gov. Gilligan honored at funeral

Democrat was 62nd leader of the state

9/4/2013
BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF
John Patrick Gilligan, left, son of  Ohio Gov. John Joyce
John Patrick Gilligan, left, son of Ohio Gov. John Joyce "Jack" Gilligan, gives the Eulogy while Gov. Gilligan's granddaughter Hannah Gilligan Commoss stands behind during the memorial service.

CINCINNATI — “Jack Gilligan, there will not soon if ever be another like him.”

The words of his son John today were those that friends, family, and probably even political foes would agree about John Joyce “Jack” Gilligan, Ohio's 62nd governor of Ohio.

In St. Francis de Sales Church, where he was baptized 92 years earlier, more than 200 said goodbye to the man considered to be the father of Ohio's income tax. He died on Aug. 26.

The liberal Irish Catholic Democrat loved his “politics, football, and whiskey,” as granddaughter Hannah Gilligan Commoss recalled. And then there was his biting sense of humor that sometimes got him into trouble.

PHOTO GALLERY: Funeral service for former Gov. John Gilligan

Son John recalled his father's quip after he said “send me” to serve on Cincinnati School Board long after he left the governor's residence. He was going to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” he said.

The Rev. Len Wenke recalled that sense of humor.

“If you ever had a conversation with him about the texts, if there was a twinkle in his eye, watch out,” he said.

The mass emphasized the person.

Daughter Kathleen Sebelius, center in white, hugs a man outside of the church after the memorial service for former Ohio Gov. John Joyce
Daughter Kathleen Sebelius, center in white, hugs a man outside of the church after the memorial service for former Ohio Gov. John Joyce "Jack" Gilligan.

“He believed that, to whom much was given, much was asked, and that, working together, we could do things that we could not do as individuals,” son John said before the funeral mass began. “I think he also believed in extraordinary faith and that people you could talk to intelligently could understand what the issues are and would do the right thing.”

A memorial on Thursday at the Statehouse in Columbus will remember the policy.

Mr. Gilligan won the gubernatorial campaign in 1970 on a platform that promised to create the first Ohio income tax. He ushered the tax through a Republican-controlled General Assembly that was more than happy to let him take the blame four years later when he narrowly lost his bid for re-election to the returning Republican Gov. James Rhodes.

Mr. Gilligan was not physically present today at the church and he will not lie in state at the Statehouse. His body was donated to science at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

The governor has been championed for fighting for the downtrodden, so it is perhaps fitting that on Thursday, while his memorial is held inside the Statehouse, a long-planned rally will take place on the lawn outside calling for expansion of Medicaid eligibility under President Obama's health-care la

If he were alive, “he'd be on the steps with them and his daughter would probably be there, too,” said Bob Daley, assistant to Mr. Gilligan while governor.

That daughter is Kathleen Sebelius, former governor of Kansas. As Mr. Obama's secretary of health and human services, she's in charge of implementing the law.

The clergy and family process into the church during the memorial service for former Ohio Gov. John Joyce
The clergy and family process into the church during the memorial service for former Ohio Gov. John Joyce "Jack" Gilligan at St. Francis de Sales Church in Cincinnati.

The Gilligan family planned today to host a reception in their father's memory at National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati.

Characterized as helping to create the modern Ohio Democratic Party, Mr. Gilligan's tenure as governor also saw the creation of the state Environmental Protection Agency.

He served on Cincinnati City Council from 1953 to 1963 and in Congress from 1965 to 1967. In 1968, he upset sitting U.S. Sen. Frank Lausche in the Democratic primary election before going on to lose to Republican William B. Saxbe in the general.

He then rode a Republican “pay-to-play” loan scandal into the governor’s mansion for his single term, defeating Republican Auditor Roger Cloud. After leaving office in early 1975, he served as administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development and as a faculty member and director of the Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, his alma mater.