Ushering in Ohio’s income tax cost John J. Gilligan the governor’s office after just one term, but the political fallout didn’t stop him from fighting for the poor.
At the age of 78 — 25 years after losing his re-election bid – Gilligan ran for and won a seat on the Cincinnati school board in 1999. He went right to work on an initiative to support impoverished urban families by putting family agencies and clinics in the city’s schools.
“You come to the inner city, and you’ve got kids living right on the edge, with no resources,” Gilligan told the Cincinnati Enquirer in 2003 after being re-elected to the board.
Gilligan died Monday at age 92. The Enquirer said the governor's son, John Patrick, announced the death. The newspaper reported the death was due to congestive heart failure.
Thomas Suddes, a longtime political columnist and statehouse observer, on Monday described Gilligan's administration as policy driven and one forced to work with a Republican-controlled house for the first two years.
"One could say that modern Ohio politics is a product of James A. Rhodes, but I would say that Ohio state government as it now exists is a product of John J. Gilligan," Suddes said in an interview with cleveland.com.
A college literature professor whose political career began with his election to Cincinnati’s City Council in 1953, Gilligan remained a liberal voice in the Democratic Party. In 2004, he backed longshot Democratic candidate Eric Fingerhut’s bid to unseat U.S. Sen. George Voinovich.