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May 22, 2016

What do you really know about Jerry Springer, folks?

I often think about Jerry Springer.

Yeah, that Jerry Springer. Pre-TV circus fame, Springer was a talented lawyer, gifted politician, civil rights activist, respected city councilman and Cincinnati mayor (i.e., weak-mayor system slot) three decades ago. Springer was the Jewish Bobby Kennedy--who he had worked for and even looked a lot like.

Talk about Born to Run. A credible and polished liberal Democrat, for Pete's sake, in staid Republican stronghold Cincinnati, Ohio. Young London-born Jerry Springer in a place like Cincinnati was Unheard Of. He was first pol I ever volunteered to campaign for--and did that as a high school student. And I lived less than a mile from Senator Taft's family's house.

In fact, the Queen City and the very Eastern Hills neighborhood and school district I grew up in is home to President Taft, Taft's U.S. senator son ("Mr. Republican"), Taft's U.S. senator grandson and Taft's Ohio governor great-grandson. Respected GOP Senator Rob Portman went to private school down the street from me. Ex-Speaker John Boehner is from the eastern suburb next door. And Cincinnati generally is a hard-working and mainly white-collar GOP German-Catholic reactionary part of Ohio and America. Partly Midwestern, and a bit Southern, the city is nestled in green hills and greenbelt overlooking the Ohio River and the State of Kentucky.

Jerry Springer was the Anointed One: a pre-Rahm Rahm. Born to run for office, and active politically as a carpetbagger in Southwestern Ohio. Springer worked at BigLaw's now-Frost Brown, then Frost & Jacobs, conservative by even Cincinnati standards. Springer was the brave golden boy with almost shockingly progressive, liberal ideas for that region. A true Natural. Born to run.

In the summer of 1977, as part of a summer gig for the Cincinnati Legal Aid Society, I interviewed Councilman Springer for forty-five minutes with another law student--an also very young law student at HLS from Cincinnati named Keith Glaser--in connection with a Justice Department DOJ Voting Rights Act investigation of Cincinnati's city at-large councilmanic election schemata Keith and I were helping with. Springer was genuinely supportive of our effort to have more Cincinnati blacks--35% of the city proper--on city council, where they were under-represented.*

Anyway, Jerry Springer. I'm not easily charmed by politicians, men women, actors, actresses or other humans. I've met and spoken at length with only two other pols in my life that are in Jerry Springer's Charm League: GOP mainstay Richard Thornburgh and one ex-POTUS named William Jefferson Clinton. All three are very close on the head-spinning meter.

It's a very long story--one I am sure will be a movie some day. But Jerry Springer liked publicity, money, being famous and getting laid more than The Cause itself. And who am I to blame him? Those are exactly the things I like, too. But as Springer approaches his 72nd birthday, I wonder if we'll ever get him back. I hope we do. This is a great and talented human and leader.

*See, if you are interested, something I wrote back then which unexpectedly (to me, anyway) won two awards, including a national one, which article I recall my own father thought was uninteresting and irrelevant. Hull, Challenges to At-Large Election Plans: Modern Local Government on Trial, 47 U.CIN.L. REV. 64 (1978)

Posted by JD Hull at May 22, 2016 12:42 AM


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