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Celebrating the leadership, vision, tenacity, and love of community shared by the recipients of the Great Living Cincinnatian Award, presented annually by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber since 1967.
Born in Cincinnati and educated in the public schools, Murray Seasongood graduated from Harvard Law School and began the practice of law in Cincinnati in 1904. He has received six honorary degrees and has served well as a teacher, writer, lecturer, skilled attorney and brilliant speaker.
Seasongood’s foremost accomplishment will always remain with us. He took the worst-governed city in the nation in 1924, and within six years drove out its corrupt leaders and their system of government with his “shout heard round the wards.”
He instituted the charter form of government and served as the first mayor under this new government. He is also considered the father of the Hamilton County Parks.
Murray Seasongood (October 27, 1878–February 21, 1983) served as the Mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio from 1926 to 1930. After his tenure as mayor, Seasongood was appointed as professor of law at Harvard University. He was named as one of the 100 Greatest Ohio Citizens in 1974. Seasongood was the founder of the Charter Party of Cincinnati, Ohio, and the city’s first Charterite mayor.
Seasongood attended Woodward High School in Cincinnati and Edgeborough School in Guildford, England. He received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in 1900, graduating magna cum laude. Harvard granted him a law degree in 1903.
In the 1920s, he joined a reform movement to fight the corrupt Republican machine running Cincinnati. The machine, started by George Cox (known as Boss Cox), was then being run by Cox’s successor, Rudolph Hynicka. The machine politics kept the Republican party in near total possession of the reins of city government and Hynicka, who spent most of his time in New York running a theater-booking company, controlled the government by telephone calls and telegraph messages to the Republican Central Committee.
With Republican bosses pocketing municipal funds, city government went broke during Hynicka’s reign. Street lights went unlit and the government proposed to close a tuberculosis hospital. Garbage collectors worked only when residents paid them.
On Oct. 9, 1923, Seasongood ignited the Charterite reform movement in Cincinnati with a fiery anti-tax speech (labeled by newspapers as the “Shot Heard ‘Round the Wards”) at a meeting of the Cincinnatus Association:
“They tell you at City Hall that they have no money. What I want to know is, what becomes of the money? We have the fourth-largest per capita expenditure of any city in the country. What do we get for it? Nothing, absolutely nothing. … I for one believe that the time has come to cut out every extra tax levy, bond issue or anything else that will give the bunch a chance to squander money. Make them produce the goods on what they have or get out.”
The Republican government agreed to a series of public debates, but after seeing the disastrous results of Seasongood’s debate with Vice Mayor Froome Morris, the remaining debates were cancelled. Seasongood then carried on, with an empty chair standing in for the administration.
After defeating the tax, Seasongood joined a movement to reform the structure of city government. The movement resulted in the adoption by referendum of a new city charter in 1925, reforming the municipal government. Seasongood, who became the city’s first mayor under the new charter, became nationally known for his reform efforts.
Seasongood taught law at the University of Cincinnati for 34 years, describing for students the national reform movement that he helped kick off. Late into his life, he continued to practise law at the Cincinnati firm of Paxton and Seasongood.
Seasongood later founded the Hamilton County Good Government League. He served as national president of the Legal Aid Society, and was appointed by President Herbert Hoover to a commission on housing conditions. Seasongood was married to his wife, Agnes, from 1912 until her death in 1982.
Recipients are selected from candidates by the Cincinnati Chamber’s senior council based on the following criteria: – Community service – Business and civic attainment on a local, state and national or international level – Leadership – Awareness of the needs of others – Distinctive accomplishments that have brought favorable attention to their community, institution or organization