(Oct. 31, 1909-Dec. 30, 2006) Born in Henderson, Kentucky, “Charlie” Boswell had a hardscrabble youth in the city’s Haughville area. A graduate of Indiana University with degrees in sociology, he was, before taking political office, chief probation officer of the Marion County Juvenile Court. He served as City Controller under Mayor Phillip L. Bayt. After being elected Marion County Prosecutor, Boswell succeeded Bayt when he resigned on January 1, 1959. Boswell won the mayor’s office in his own right in a city election 11 months later.

A man is standing. Behind him, seated in a small boxed-in area, are several people.
Charles H. Boswell prepares to be sworn in as mayor, 1959 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

The Boswell administration generated significant funds from the landmark action of depositing tax revenues in interest-bearing bank accounts, a practice later copied by county and state governments. Among other things, the financial windfall enabled the city to purchase land and begin an unprecedented growth in recreational facilities such as golf courses, swimming pools, and playgrounds.

During the Bayt administration, heavy flooding of Eagle Creek in June and July 1957 nearly devastated the town of Speedway. Boswell, as the city’s financial officer, worked with Bayt to initiate a Flood Control project that was to become Eagle Creek Reservoir. The first phase of that improvement used bond financing through the city’s Flood Control Board. Such a city tax base, Boswell noted later as mayor, was inadequate for recreational development and for larger physical needs elsewhere. He went to local business leaders proposing the creation of countywide flood control, sanitation, parks, and airport authorities. He won their support, and laws creating the new governmental units were enacted by the Indiana General Assembly in 1961.

Two men are behind a desk. One is standing and leaning over the seated man as he signs a document. There is an American flag furled in the corner.
Mayor Charles H. Boswell signs the 40-year lease for the City-County Building in 1959. Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

Federal aid for slum clearance and public housing was an issue during Boswell’s term. Indianapolis newspapers and local business leaders adamantly opposed such aid. Boswell recalled years later that little federal money actually was available and that battles on the issue could have jeopardized other programs. Instead, Boswell worked with the Chamber Of Commerce and Flanner House, a community self-help organization, in acquiring slum land and clearing it for new housing. The project attracted national attention because of its not-for-profit, go-it-alone concept, as well as the pride of homeownership created by construction labor that included people who were to live in the new dwellings.

Boswell continued sanitary and storm sewer construction and one-way street development started by Bayt. When he resigned as mayor on August 4, 1962, to become postmaster of Indianapolis, newspaper editorials commended him for a fiscally responsible administration without tax increases and for a drop in crime rates. After the reorganization that created the U.S. Postal Service, he became its district director for Indiana. He retired from that post in 1987.

Revised February 2021

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