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  Bagwell, Paul Douglas
NamePaul Douglas Bagwell
East Lansing, Michigan , United States
Born August 23, 1913
DiedOctober 23, 1973 (60 years)
Last ModifedRBH
Mar 26, 2013 04:32pm
InfoEast Lansing�s Paul Bagwell earned a statewide reputation as orator, teacher, and unconventional politician. Bagwell, once head of the communication skills department at Michigan State, was the Republican candidate for Governor in 1958 and 1960.

Bagwell, who lived at 417 Ardson in the 1940s and at 420 W. Grand River in the 1950s, came within one percentage point of the Governor�s Office on his second try. He lost to Democrat John Swainson in 1960, when Kennedy won Michigan and the presidency.

Maury Crane, hired by Bagwell in 1953, recalls his former boss with great affection. �He was a delightful, charming man. He was charismatic and had a euphuistic, flowery speaking style,� said Crane, now a retired humanities professor who directed MSU�s voice library for a quarter century.

�He believed in oratory and he believed with all his heart that style was more important than substance.�

The professor-turned-politician began fighting uphill battles early in life. According to his campaign literature, at age18 a football injury left Bagwell with two dislocated hips. While still in a body cast, he developed polio, which left him to rely on use of a cane for the rest of his life. He joined the college faculty in 1938 as an instructor in speech and dramatics, later serving as department head. He also devoted much time to civic duties, including as chairman of the Michigan March of Dimes and as president of the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce.

�I knew Paul fairly well,� said David Ralph, retired MSU communications professor, in an interview with the Lamplighter. �He had an ebullient personality. His style was open and free. He was a politician. If you met Paul Bagwell, you would not forget him. When he walked into a room, you knew he was there even if you didn�t see him. Some people are like that. John Hannah also had that quality.�

Bagwell entered politics in 1956 as a candidate for state auditor general, then an elective office. He did not win, but ran well ahead of the rest of the Republican ticket. Bagwell promoted what he called �Responsible Republicanism,� a philosophy that often put him at odds with other party leaders. The Detroit News in 1958 reported this sentiment from a state senator from Coldwater: �He said the GOP nominee should �represent the true conservatism of the Republican Party,� as contrast to Gov. Williams� �irresponsible spending policies.� This senator preferred the more conservative Speaker of the House George Van Peursem to Bagwell as his party�s candidate for the state�s chief executive.

The 1958 election pitted Bagwell against a popular Democratic incumbent, G. Mennen �Soapy� Williams. �We need less partisanship and more statesmanship � less political soft soap and more political responsibility,� Bagwell told the Lansing State Journal in 1958. The Detroit Free Press that year reported that the candidate did not �intend to conduct any pantywaist or pussyfoot campaign.�

�I�ll face every issue,� Bagwell said. During his two campaigns for Governor, Bagwell went on record as supporting extending unemployment compensation benefits, implementing an income tax to solve the state�s revenue problem, revising the state�s tax to support education, implementing property tax relief, expanding civil rights protections, restructuring Michigan�s juvenile justice system, and creating new jobs.

�Michigan will be bankrupt if we continue to lose jobs at the present rate,� Bagwell told the UAW membership in 1958. �If I am elected, I will not seek a second term if I fail to create at least 100,000 new factory jobs during my first two years.�

Many of Bagwell�s ideas � from taxes to civil rights � were implemented by Republican and Democratic governors, but long after the East Lansing candidate proposed them.

Paul Bagwell died at his Grosse Pointe home on October 23, 1973 after suffering a heart attack. Within a few weeks, his wife, Edith, also died.


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  11/08/1960 MI Governor Lost 49.20% (-1.28%)
  11/04/1958 MI Governor Lost 46.63% (-6.38%)
  11/06/1956 MI Auditor General Lost 49.34% (-1.08%)