Wednesday, June 04, 2008

William T. McLaughlin: 1917-2008

Bill McLaughlin was mayor when I first decided to live and work in the city. He led Wilmington at a crucial time in the city's history. Many American cities, including Wilmington, declined in the 1960s and 1970s as jobs and residents fled to the rapidly growing suburbs. Some cities never recovered. But Wilmington rebounded, and began to grow again during Bill McLaughlin's tenure.
Tom Maloney gave us confidence that Wilmington could recover from the turmoil of 1968. But if you look at the city's skyline and population statistics, you will see clear evidence that the city renewed growth started on Bill McLaughlin's watch. Mayors Dan Frawley, Jim Sills and Jim Baker have contributed to the further growth of the city. But, more than any predecessor or successor, Bill McLaughlin was the guy who turned things around.
Mayor Jim Baker rightly called him, "Wilmington's finest gentleman" in the News Journal. I have never heard an unkind word about him, which is remarkable for a successful political leader. He engendered such genuine affection from everyone in the city because he treated everyone with characteristic dignity and modesty.
At last night's viewing, I found myself wondering how a man of such slender proportions could have had such an enormous impact on this city. Wilmington will give Bill McLaughlin his final farewell this morning at 10:00 at St. Elizabeth's at Cedar and Clayton Streets.

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