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Tom Luken, former mayor and congressman, dies

Posted at 4:39 PM, Jan 10, 2018

CINCINNATI -- Jerry Springer says his own early years in Cincinnati politics were shaped by Tom Luken's mentorship.

Springer and other local political figures past and present mourned Luken Wednesday after hearing that the former Cincinnati mayor and longtime congressman had died at the age of 92.

"In November of 1971, I won my first election to city council. That election put the Democrats in the majority for the first time and made Tom Luken mayor," said Springer, who later became mayor himself. "We became blood brothers from that day on in terms of politics. ... I can't think of my political life in Cincinnati without thinking of Tom."

Current Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley credited Luken with teaching him how to campaign on the city's church festival circuit back in 2000, when Cranley was making a run at Congress against incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot.

"I went to many church festivals with Tom Luken when I was running the first time," Cranley said. "He went with me. No one knew who I was at the time, but they knew who he was."

Luken, a Democrat, served on Cincinnati City Council in the 1960s and '70s, when a member of Council served as mayor in a largely ceremonial role.  

He went on to serve in Congress for 15 years from the late 70s until 1991, when son Charlie won the seat, and returned to city council


The Hamilton County Democratic Party says Luken was a fighter who advocated for civil rights and a public bus system. In a statement, party chair Tim Burke says: “He could be gruff, demanding and impatient, but it was because he wanted to get things done and he knew how to do it.”

Luken remained active in local politics in his later years, including a push to stop Cincinnati's streetcar.

Services have not been announced.

SEE more comments about Luken in the videos above.