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Fletcher Bowron

Mayor Fletcher Bowron (second from right) at Cinco de Mayo celebration, 1952

In office
1938 – 1953
Preceded by Frank L. Shaw
Succeeded by Norris Poulson

Born August 13, 1887(1887-08-13)
Poway, California
Died September 11, 1968 (aged 81)
Los Angeles, California
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Irene Martin
Residence Los Angeles, California

Fletcher Bowron (August 13, 1887 – September 11, 1968) was a four-term reform mayor of Los Angeles, California from September 26, 1938 until June 30, 1953. Until Thomas Bradley passed his length of service during the 1980s, Bowron held the distinction of having the longest tenure in that position in city history.

Bowron was born in Poway, California, the youngest of three children. His parents, who had migrated from the Midwest, sent him to Los Angeles High School, where he graduated in 1904. In 1907, he began studies at UC Berkeley, where his two brothers had graduated, then enrolled in the University of Southern California Law School two years later. However, because of financial difficulties, he paid for law school by becoming a reporter for San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles newspapers, working the City Hall and court beats in the latter city. He was finally admitted to the bar association in 1917.

Upon the United States' entry into World War I, Bowron enlisted in the Army, serving in the 14th Field Artillery before transferring to the military intelligence division. Upon his return, he once again practiced law before he married Irene Martin in 1922. The following year, he was appointed as a deputy state corporations commissioner. His work in that capacity caught the attention of California governor, Friend Richardson, who hired him as executive secretary in 1925, and then appointed him to the superior court in 1926.

In his first tenure as a superior court judge, which lasted 12 years, Bowron became the first jurist on the West Coast to use the pre-trial calendar system.

He was then elected mayor of Los Angeles in 1938 in the wake of the corruption arising from the previous administration of Frank L. Shaw, and earned the reputation of being lawful, unlike his predecessor. One example came when he replaced the city's chief of police with William H. Parker because of the rampant corruption within the Los Angeles Police Department. This was part of what he called the Los Angeles Urban Reform Revival.

He served during the era of World War II, most notably taking part with the institution of Japanese detainment camps. Bowron was quoted on the radio on Abraham Lincoln's birthday in support of these camps: "There isn't a shadow of a doubt but that Lincoln, the mild-mannered man whose memory we regard with almost saint-like reverence, would make short work of rounding up the Japanese and putting them where they could do no harm." He continued by calling them "the people born on American soil who have secret loyalty to the Japanese Emperor."

He lost re-election in 1953 after having survived a number of recall attempts, with his defeat linked partly because his liberal backing began to wane as a result of McCarthyism. In 1956, he once again ran for superior court judge, defeating Joseph L. Call in the November election. Serving one six-year term, he retired from political office in 1962, but remained active in city activities.

In the final two years of his term, Bowron's personal life changed dramatically. On January 4, 1961, his wife Irene died at the Madison Lodge Sanitarium after spending nearly five years at the facility. Just 10 months later, Bowron married his long-time executive assistant, Albine Norton.

Following his retirement from the bench, he served as director of the Metropolitan Los Angeles History Project, hiring Robert C. Post, then a graduate student at UCLA, as his chief researcher. In 1967, was named chairman of the city's Citizen's Committee on Zoning Practices and Procedures.

After finishing work on September 11, 1968 he suffered a fatal heart attack while driving home. The car in which he was driving suddenly accelerated and crashed into a brick wall. While his body lay in state in the Los Angeles City Hall rotunda, few people came to pay their respects. [1] He was then buried at Inglewood Park Cemetery in in the city of Inglewood.

Further reading

  • Sitton, Tom. Los Angeles Transformed: Fletcher Bowron's Urban Reform Revival, 1938-1953. ISBN 0-8263-3527-6.  


  1. ^ "Only a Few Honor Ex-Mayor Bowron at City Hall Rotunda," Los Angeles Times, 14 September 1968, page B1.
Political offices
Preceded by
Frank L. Shaw
Mayor of Los Angeles, California
Succeeded by
Norris Poulson


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