1950 reporter Tom Brophey beat long-time
Windsor mayor Art Reaume. Or did he?
Although Art Reaume’s political career in Windsor
lasted until 1967, (shown at left) his reputation was
never the same after the police commission probe in 1950.
Some of the only salient information revealed during the
probe was in relation to Reaume’s character, which,
until the allegations of moral laxity against the police
force, had been considered unassailable.
See“Portrait of a Scandal,” The TIMES March
2002 issue (available at The TIMES office).
1950, Arthur Reaume had been mayor of Windsor for nine years
and he looked as if he would remain in office indefinitely.
During the war years, he had run a progressive administration
with an emphasis on providing low-cost worker housing. Through
his efforts, 2,500 Wartime Housing Ltd. dwellings and 114
Housing Enterprise units were constructed. Many Windsorites
were homeowners largely due to Reaume’s efforts.
the Ford strike of 1945 threatened to deprive many families
of support, it was Reaume who urged City Council to provide
relief for strikers’ families. His strong support for
the fledgling UAW was highly prized by the Union and was a
signal to them that they did not have to fight City Hall,
as well as the company. In subsequent elections, he could
rely on labour’s unwavering support.
Reaume was a man who looked like he should be mayor. A dapper
dresser, with a confident, worldly swagger, Reaume was everyone’s
ideal mayor – some even compared him with New York’s
famous “Jimmy Walker” as both a capable administrator
his career in municipal politics in 1930 at the age of 24,
)Reaume was elected to the town council of Sandwich. Three
years later, he became the town’s mayor and the youngest
chief executive in Ontario. He was profoundly affected by
the misery known as the Great Depression and did what he could
both personally and through the municipal government to alleviate
was challenged by a political opponent, Ed Donnelly, with
ordering a work stoppage at a riverside park. Reaume replied
that yes, he had gone to the park on a bitterly cold day where
about 100 men on relief were working. “They will not
work until they are properly clad,” said Reaume, and
he sent them home. This was illegal, roared Donnelly, who
felt that because of it, Reaume would not get one vote. “I
will not only get one vote, I will get thousands,” Reaume
did, and was easily re-elected.
after Sandwich’s amalgamation with Windsor, he sat as
an alderman and in 1941 succeeded David Croll as mayor of
Windsor. In the 1948 municipal election he easily defeated
a challenge from a young reporter, Tom Brophey. The lack of
“ballot box fever” was so apparent that the Windsor
Daily Star thought that the Reaume regime was “approaching
the status of a monopoly.”
there were cracks showing in the administration. Organized
crime was so well established in Windsor that bordellos, gambling
and illegal drinking establishments operated openly in many
parts of the city. In early 1950, Magistrate Hanrahan tried
and convicted bootlegger Joe Assef for running a number of
illegal operations in the City. It was becoming apparent that
crime was widespread and little was being done to control
Magistrate, Angus W. MacMillan, the chairman of the Police
Commission, initiated a hearing on charges of laxity on the
part of the Windsor police force. Yet, as The Windsor Daily
Star reported, “even while preparations for the probe
are under way, many of Windsor’s vice centres continue
to carry on business as usual. Virtually everything in the
way of diversion for the ‘tired businessman’ is
readily available in Windsor.”
a member of the Police Commission, Reaume sat in on the hearings,
and yet when he challenged Hanrahan that some of the accusations
might just be hearsay, the Magistrate was outraged that the
Mayor was not taking these charges seriously. “There
is an apparent air of hostility that is amazing and certainly
not justifiable by any remarks I have made,” he noted.
However, Ontario’s Attorney General Dana Porter closely
followed the investigation. Changes in law enforcement in
Windsor were obviously overdue.
mayor himself became directly embroiled in scandal when it
became known that he and the administrator of the municipality-run
Metropolitan Hospital had entertained a bevy of nurses at
a fashionable party at the Book-Cadillac Hotel in Detroit.
Miss Maybee, the superintendent of nurses quit and another
public enquiry was held. This time, Reaume could not avoid
being caught up directly, and Bruce MacDonald, the lawyer
for one of the groups charged that “I do not think the
mayor can escape censure for his part… I think that
anyone with any experience in the world will doubt his story.”
his probe was less that edifying, there was no proof of wrongdoing.
Art Reaume faced the municipal election of December, 1950,
still relying on the support of labour and the common people.
again, his opponent was the reporter, Tom Brophey. Brophey
had given up journalism and decided to study law. Even though
he was in the middle of his studies in Toronto, he nevertheless
ran a spirited campaign.
sold his car in order to go to law school Brophey was forced
to walk the streets of Windsor. He argued that during Reaume’s
“decade of progress” the property tax burden had
become unbearable. “I recall having been in communist
halls only twice,” Brophey declared, “and each
time I found Arthur Reaume in the centre of attention.”
Had the mayor, through fast and clever footwork avoided the
effects of two major investigations?
fought back that through his influence, the most recent strike
at Ford of Canada had been settled in less than 12 hours.
Was this communism, or just good government? As well, he had
taken efforts to assimilate the ethnic groups that were coming
into Windsor and for this he deserved another term in office.
as the campaign had been, no one seriously expected Art Reaume
to be upset.
the morning of December 7, 1950, Windsorites woke up to find
out that by a margin of 38 votes they had a new mayor. The
strongest political machine in Windsor’s history had
been beaten by a neophyte. The razor-thin margin of victory
did not seem to bother the mayor-elect who proclaimed that
“38 votes is as good as 38 000.” Inevitably, Reaume
demanded and got a recount. However, the count could not be
held before the New Year, and on January 1, 1951, Tom Brophey
was sworn in as mayor of Windsor.
24-hour police guard was mounted on the ballot boxes until
Acting Judge Charles Sale began the recount on January 3.
On the first day, Brophey gained an additional two votes.
However, as the tedious process of recounting 33 000 ballots
wore on, Brophey saw his plurality slowly slipping away. By
January 9, Reaume had pulled head by 16 votes and he was declared
re-elected as mayor.
was hardly a vote of confidence.
the Toronto Daily Star warned, the paper-thin victory spoke
“of an aroused electorate which nearly elected a young
man like Mr. Brophey despite all that the well-established
Reaume organization could do.”
Reaume would continue to serve Windsor as mayor until 1954,
and as a member of the provincial parliament until 1967. Despite
several more tries for the mayor’s office, Tom Brophey
would never again get close to executive office.
was one more piece of unfinished business resulting from the
contested election of 1950. After serving eight days in the
mayor’s office, Brophey was entitled to be paid. After
some discussion, the Board of Control decided that he had
earned a month’s pay for his eight days in office.
of Art Reaume’s first acts back in office was to sign
Tom Brophey’s pay cheque for the shortest term in the
Mayor’s office in Windsor’s history.
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