Anthony J. Celebrezze Sr.

From Ohio History Central

Anthony Joseph Celebrezze, Sr., was a prominent Ohio politician, including mayor of Cleveland, during the twentieth century.

Celebrezze was born on September 4, 1910, in Anzi, Italy. As a young child, Celebrezze's family immigrated to the United States and settled in Cleveland, Ohio. As a teenager, Celebrezze sold newspapers and worked as a railroad laborer. He attended John Carroll University for his undergraduate education and Ohio Northern University for a law degree, graduating from this second institution in 1936. That same year, Celebrezze passed the Ohio bar exam and embarked upon a career in public service, accepting a position with the Ohio Unemployment Commission. During World War II, Celebrezze served in the United States Navy.

Upon World War II's conclusion, Celebrezze returned to public life, winning election to the Ohio Senate in 1950. He served only a single term, although he won reelection in 1952 to a second term. A member of the Democratic Party, Celebrezze faced opposition in his own party for not supporting candidates that his party officially endorsed. Interestingly, he was one of only a few Democrats serving in the Ohio Senate at this time. As a result of these tensions, Celebrezze resigned his Ohio Senate seat and attempted to become Cleveland's mayor in 1952. Although Celebrezze did not receive his party's formal nomination for this office, he won the election. He remained as Cleveland's mayor from 1953 to 1962, although he did unsuccessfully seek the Democratic Party's nomination to Ohio's governor's seat in 1958. Celebrezze was a well-liked mayor, winning reelection in 1954, 1956, 1958, and 1960, receiving 73.8 percent of the votes cast in the final election.

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy appointed Celebrezze as the United States Secretary for Health, Education, and Welfare. As secretary, Celebrezze's most important contribution was the creation of Medicare, providing elderly Americans with government-supported health insurance. Celebrezze remained in this position until 1965, when President Lyndon Baines Johnson nominated him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Celebrezze served as a judge of the Sixth Circuit until his death on October 29, 1998.

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