Remembering an English Professor, a Committed Progressive, and Lifelong Public Servant

Jack Gilligan

John Joyce (“Jack”) Gilligan, died on August 26, 2013, at his home in Cincinnati, surrounded by his wife and family.  He was 92 years old.  After graduating from St. Xavier High School and University of Notre Dame, in WWII he was awarded a Silver Star for gallantry in action having served in both the Pacific and Atlantic theaters for the U.S. Navy.  He spent much of the rest of his life promoting peace, as a Democratic anti-war candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1968, as the Director for the Agency of International Development, and as the Co-Founder and initial Director of the Kroc Institute for Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

He served the people of Ohio in many elected offices: as Governor (1971-1975), as a Member of Congress (1965–1967), and as a Member of the Cincinnati City Council for 7 terms starting in 1953 and ending in 1967.  He was an educator, an English Professor at Xavier University, served as the director of the Civic Forum at the University of Cincinnati Law School, and twice was elected Member of the Cincinnati School Board, until his retirement at age 86.

As a member of the 89th Congress, he helped to pass the Voting Rights Act, Medicare and Medicaid, and the Freedom of Information Act to insure open government, and to appropriate more money for education, primary through university, than all of the previous Congresses combined.

As Governor, he rescued Ohio from fiscal turmoil.  He enacted the corporate and personal income tax to fund State services properly, started the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, cleaned up the mental health institutions and prisons, and enacted campaign finance reform to take big money out of politics.  As an elected Member of the Cincinnati Board of Education, he spearheaded the effort to build community learning centers to allow the new public schools in Cincinnati to be neighborhood centers for learning, health and social services, providing a real opportunity for even the poorest children to succeed with their education.

Jack Gilligan believed that politics was the noblest of professions.  He believed that citizens, properly informed, could work together to solve their most difficult problems.  He often reminded us never to underestimate the intelligence of the voters or to overestimate the quality of information they have to make decisions vital to their lives.

His children and grandchildren have followed him into public service, from the cabinet of the President, to governor, to community development and foundations, to school boards and legislative staff work, and many other efforts to build better communities.  Jack learned through his Catholic upbringing, and passed along to his children and to their children through his teachings and actions, that those who have the benefit of abundance owe an obligation to their neighbors to lift them up, to make sure that each has a chance to fully develop their talents and dreams.

In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory can be offered to: The John J. Gilligan Scholarship, Center for the American Dream, Xavier University, 3800 Victory Parkway, Cincinnati, Ohio 45207-1221; or Hospice of Cincinnati, 4360 Cooper Road, Cincinnati, Ohio 45242.  His body has been donated to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.  A memorial Mass will be celebrated at St. Francis de Sales Church, 1600 Madison Road, Cincinnati, OH 45206 on September 4, 2013, at 10:30 AM.  Then there will be visitation open to all with the family at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, 50 East Freedom Way, Cincinnati, Ohio, from 2:30 to 4:30 P.M.

Jack Gilligan was the father of Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the former Governor of Kansas. They are the only father and daughter to serve as governors.


[This obituary has been distributed by the Ohio Democratic Party.]


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