Murray Seasongood was a man of many talents but is best known for his ability to transform Cincinnati into one of the best governed cities in the country in the 1920’s. He lived to be 104 and continued to go to his office at Paxton & Seasongood until he was 100. In addition to being a Harvard trained lawyer, Seasongood was a leader in the National Civic League founded in 1894 by Theodore Roosevelt, Louis Brandeis, Marshall Field and other progressives, was president of Cincinnati Legal Aid Society, taught law at the University of Cincinnati and was Godkin Lecturer on municipal government at Harvard.
In the early twentieth century, Cincinnati’s government was controlled by a venal Republican machine, initially led by Boss Cox and then by his henchman, Rudolph Hynicka, all of whom lined their pockets with public funds. By the early 1920’s the city was nearly bankrupt. When Hynicka asked voters for a special tax levy in 1923, Murray Seasongood gave a speech to the Cincinnatus Association dubbed the “Shot Heard ‘Round the Wards.” He called for the bosses “to produce the goods on what they have or get out.”
The speech sparked intense public interest, and in 1924 Seasongood helped draft a proposed new charter calling for a nine member city council to replace the unwieldy 32–seat body then in place, a council appointed city manager, and a mayor selected by his council colleagues. The measure passed, and then in 1925 when the first council election under the new system was held, Seasongood and other Charterites were stunned when their ticket took six of the nine seats. Seasongood was named the first mayor under the new charter. He served for only four years as he felt, like Cincinnatus, that citizens should help in political life, but not become politicians.
The Jewish Welfare Fund was formed in 1930. Seasongood, having just stepped down as Mayor, agreed to serve as general Chairman of the first campaign with an initial campaign goal of $200,000. The purpose of the Fund was to centralize giving for Jewish philanthropic and social welfare agencies, much as the Community Chest did for the broader community.
Seasongood remained active in civic affairs for another half century, founding the Hamilton County Good Government League and serving on President Hoover’s national commission to investigate housing conditions, among other things. He passed away in 1983 and is interred in our Walnut Hills Cemetery.