Did You Know the First African-American Mayor of St. Louis Was Born on This Day?

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This Day In History: July 20th

Prior to 1993, the city of St. Louis, Missouri, never had an African-American mayor but that all changed with the election of Freeman Robertson Bosley, Jr. Bosley was a native of St. Louis who followed in his father’s footsteps by getting involved in public service work.

Freeman Robertson Bosley, Jr. was born in St. Louis on July 20, 1954, to Freeman Robertson, Sr. and Marjorie Bosley. His father was elected city alderman in 1977 and unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 1985. After graduating from his predominantly white high school, Bosley enrolled at Saint Louis University, where he double-majored in urban affairs and political science. He continued his education at his alma mater and earned his law degree in 1979. 

During his time in college, Bosley also developed his interests in matters of civil rights. He was mentored by Ernest Calloway, a civil rights activist and professor at the university. Bosley also served as the president of the university’s Black Student Alliance and the Black-American Law Students Association. After completing law school he found work as an attorney for the Legal Services of Eastern Missouri and the law offices of Bussey & Jordan.

By 1982, Bosley worked his way to becoming the first African-American Circuit Clerk of Courts for the 22nd Judicial Circuit and maintained the position for ten years. He also served as the 3rd Ward Democratic Committeeman and the St. Louis Democratic Party Chairman. With his political prowess growing, Bosley made the decision to run for city mayor. He led a successful campaign and won the 1993 mayoral election with more than 60 percent of the vote. This made him the first African-American to hold this position. 

As mayor of St. Louis, Bosley began his term seeking to upgrade neighborhood schools throughout the city. His term also experienced the “Great Flood of 1993” which resulted in the evacuation of thousands of residents. Bosley was even able to generate $40 million in additional revenue for the city through his tax legislation. He is also credited for bringing the Los Angeles Rams football team to the city of St. Louis in 1995. 

Despite his accomplishments, Bosley lost his bid for reelection in 1997 to the city’s African-American police chief, Clarence Harmon, in the Democratic Primary. He was also unsuccessful in his second run for reelection in 2001. He returned to practicing law and started his own practice, Bosley & Associates, in 2004. Bosley continues to mentor youth interested in political and legal affairs and even has a talk show called the Freeman Bosley Jr Show.

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