For the Pharos-Tribune
At a time when our nation was deeply divided by war, social upheaval and political corruption, Otis R. “Doc” Bowen brought stability to Indiana in his eight years as governor largely through the strength of his personal integrity. He was respected, revered even, not only by fellow Republicans but also by independents and Democrats for his deep commitment to the state and its people.
Elected in 1972, after 14 years in the Indiana House and three terms as Speaker, Bowen, in his most significant legislative victory, guided a major tax reform package through the Statehouse during his tenure as governor.
But Bowen, who died Saturday at age 95, is best known in his home state for his personal qualities — a lifelong commitment to public service, self sacrifice for the benefit of others, a deep bond to community with thoughts of the generations to come.
After his tenure as governor, Bowen was tapped by President Ronald Reagan to serve as secretary of Health and Human Services. In that role, Bowen helped the nation confront the scourge of AIDS, including the promotion of safe-sex practices that saved an incalculable number of lives.
In 1989, Bowen returned home to Indiana, settling back into small-town life, where in the early days he had practiced medicine and launched a political career. But even in retirement, he never lost his drive to help others — through the promotion of good public health and good public policy.
Bowen served as governor while the Watergate scandal broke and the Vietnam war ended. He offered integrity and calm amid those storms. He served the nation in guiding health policy while the AIDS epidemic surged. He brought life-affirming, people-centered values to the fight against that often misunderstood killer. In retirement, he served as a reminder that politics and politicians need not be mean-spirited or short-sighted.
Integrity. Stability. Service. They were the pillars of Otis Bowen’s public life. With his death, Indiana has lost one of the most respected and admired leaders in its history.
— Indianapolis Star