One of Cincinnati’s most famous politicians has died. According to his family, William L. Mallory Sr. died peacefully Tuesday morning from an illness. He was 82.
Former Cincinnati mayor Mark Mallory says his father could take inspiration from almost anything.
“A thought, a vision, a natural landscape would inspire him and that would make him accept 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 ran for the Ohio House of Representatives in 1966. The Democrat served as deputy minority whip, minority whip, and deputy majority leader before becoming the first African-American to serve as a majority-owner leader – a position he held for 20 years.
In total, he spent 28 years in the Ohio General Assembly and sponsored or co-sponsored more than 600 bills.
Mallory is buried during a private service. A public memorial is being planned.
Mallory Sr. was born on October 4, 1931, the son of a laborer and a maid. He fell in love with politics at the age of 12, often spending his days reading newspapers and talking to his mother’s doctor, RP McClain, Cincinnati’s second, Afro-American councilor.
He dropped out of school to find odd jobs to support his family. Mark Mallory says his father had more than 80 jobs in his life. A beloved teacher encouraged Mallory Sr. to get his GED, whereupon he immediately enrolled at Central State University, where he met his wife, Fannie.
Mallory Sr. worked as a teacher and clerk for several years. In 1965 he became President of the West End Community Council and began a long political career. His son, Rep. Dale Mallory, says one of his father’s proudest accomplishments from the start was getting the city to put a traffic light at a dangerous intersection. Although he once organized a car pool in the neighborhood during a bus driver strike, Mallory Sr. never drove a car. In the city he was traveling by bus or on foot. While serving in the Legislature, he drove up with his friend, the late Senator William Bowen.
Another of Mallory Sr.’s greatest accomplishments has left an indelible mark on Hamilton County politics. In 1986, he and his son Mark Mallory contested the district’s election of community judges in federal court. At the time, they were voted into nationwide races, which made it nearly impossible for an African American to win. After six years of fighting, the Mallorys won and the county adopted the current district system for electing judges.
Although five out of six of his children went into politics, they said their father hadn’t expected them to. “It was understood that you would be involved in his campaigns,” laughs Mark Mallory. He says his dad loved jitterbugging, playing baseball, and barbecuing.
“He made some mean baked beans,” says Mark Mallory. “We can’t tell you what his recipe was, but we know it and it was some fantastic baked beans.”