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Judge and Mayor Ralph S. Locher

7th in our series of famous Bluffton High School alumni; Ralph Locher rose to the top of Ohio's political world,

became Cleveland mayor and later member of the Ohio Supreme Court

Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Moyer wrote that Ralph Locher had a strong influence on the Court, helping to create a collegial atmosphere where the Justices “could vigorously debate the issues before the Court but keep respect for each other.”

Ralph S. Locher

July 24, 1915 – June 18, 2004 1932 Bluffton High School graduate 1936 Bluffton College graduate

Using politic jargon, he’s Bluffton’s Favorite Son.

Ralph S. Locher, a 1932 Bluffton High School and 1936 Bluffton College graduate, as a Democrat, earned this title by becoming mayor of Cleveland and later a member of the Ohio Supreme Court.

These Ohio political achievements resulted from Locher’s own determination and a mentorship from his uncle, Cyrus Locher, also a Democrat and rural Bluffton native son, who himself was a United States Senator from Ohio in 1928.

Born an American citizen in Moraine, Romania, Ralph and his older brother, Walter, arrived in Bluffton with their parents, Ephraim and Natalie Voight Locher, in 1928.

Ephraim, a native-born American of Swiss descent,  grew up in the Bluffton-Pandora Swiss Settlement. This made Ralph a third generation American as his paternal grandparents, Christian and Fanny Luginbuhl Locher, born in Switzerland,  had immigrated to our Swiss Settlement. Locher’s Romanian mother proved Bluffton is an interesting example of America’s melting pot.

Ralph Locher's senior yearbook photo

Locher’s father moved to Romania as a representative of the Standard Oil Co., living there from 1906 to 1928. This was interrupted for a two-year period by the German occupation of that country during World War I.

Locher’s mother was a Romanian-born descendant of a German family. Because of these close European connections, Locher's membership and activity in German-American and Romanian-American organizations were used to his advantage later in Cleveland's political scene. His Romanian connection resulted in President Lyndon B. Johnson’s appointing him as the U.S. representative to the International Trade Fair in Budapest, Hungary, in May, 1966.


Here’s his story:

Coming to Bluffton in 1928, Locher spent his four high school years in Bluffton.

At BHS his success on the high school debate team was impressive. A team of Locher, Gordon Alderfer and Don Smucker, coached by Paul Stauffer, himself in his second year as a teacher, defeated Canton McKinley High School’s team 2 to 1 in the state high school debate tournament. Stories on Alderfer and Smucker will eventually join these outstanding alumni profiles.

1932 Ohio high school debate champs

Locher called his debating interest a hobby, although he had many other high school interests: • as a sophomore he was a member of the student senate and class president • as a junior he was on the yearbook staff and Senior Hi Y Club • as a senior he edited the yearbook, was student senate vice-president, played on the BHS Mid West League football championship team and was elected as a National Athletic Scholarship member.

Following high school, Locher enrolled at the University Dayton but, following his father’s early death in 1934, he transferred to Bluffton College where he graduated in 1936.

His final residency in Bluffton was 1936, when he moved to Cleveland as a law student at Western Reserve University. He earned his law degree in 1939, passed the Ohio Bar exam that year and joined the Cleveland law firm of Davis & Young.

However, he never really left Bluffton, as several circumstances continued to bring him home, in addition to his love for locally-produced smoked sausage.

His aunt, Mary Diller, lived in Bluffton and  the parents of his wife, Eleanor Worthington, also a Bluffton High School 1932 graduate, lived in Bluffton. The Bluffton News, of which he was a lifelong subscriber, kept regular tabs on his Bluffton visits and political advances.

In addition, he served on the Bluffton College board of trustees for 18 years, and following his 1988 departure was named an honorary board member. He was also named to the Bluffton College Athletic Hall of Fame.

BHS student senate 1931-32

He and his wife created a Bluffton College student endowed scholarship in their name. In 1978 he was granted an honorary doctorate from Bluffton College.

Examples of the Bluffton News stories keeping tabs on Locher demonstrate local color infused to otherwise straight political news stories:

November, 1945 – If you saw in the Columbus Sunday newspaper the picture of the occupants of governor’s box seats at the Ohio-Illinois football game, you probably recognized Mr. and Mrs. A.T. Worthington, sitting behind Governor and Mrs. Lausche. The Worthingtons took in the game as guests of the governor while spending the weekend with their daughter Mrs. Eleanor Locher and family. Her husband, Ralph Locher, former Cleveland attorney is personal secretary to the governor.

February, 1950 – Ralph Locher, former Blufftonite, now executive secretary to Gov. Lausche is an old hand when it comes to press conferences. The governor’s office, besieged as it always is by newspaper reporters, Ralph had had a lot of experience in relations with the press – however, he had a brand new one Friday.

Instead of arranging for a press conference at the State House he notified the reporters that it would be held at the bedside of H.H., (Doc) Daughtery, veteran Associated Press correspondent who was recovering or an operation at White Cross Hospital, Columbus.

So, Ralph and six State House reporters visited Daughtery’s room at the hospital for a full dress news conference to bring the sick man up to date on latest happenings at the capitol.

Dec. 12, 1950Top of Bluffton News front page - Gov. Frank Lausche dropped by unannounced to call on some Bluffton friends Tuesday night and enjoyed an informal visit at the home of Mrs. Mary Diller on Cherry Street. Mrs. Diller, the only member of the household at home at the time, was surprised when she answered a knock on the door shortly after 10 o’clock to find the governor, accompanied by her nephew, Ralph Locher, who is Lausche’s private secretary.

The two were returning by automobile to Columbus from Lima where the governor addressed a banquet at the Elk’s lodge earlier in the evening.

“If I had known that the governor was coming, I would have had the house straightened up,” said Mrs. Diller, a bit ruefully after the two departed, “but he didn’t mind a bit – just sat down and talked as if he were our next door neighbor.”

Mrs. Diller’s brother, the late Cyrus Locher, Cleveland attorney, former Cuyahoga County prosecutor became a United States senator.

November 1952 – Ralph S. Locher, whose political career has been watched with interest locally was appointed Cleveland Law Director by Mayor Anthony J. Celebrezze. In his new post, the 38-year-old nephew of the late U.S. Senator Cyrus

Locher becomes the No. 2 man in the Cleveland city governmental setup, and is seen by some political observers as heir-apparent to Mayor Celebrezze. (Note: this sentence was included in nearly every Bluffton News story by editor Ted Biery.)

As the Bluffton News’ described more colorful descriptions of Locher’s rise in Ohio politics, his matter-of-fact political resume follows, beginning with his appointment as secretary of the Ohio Industrial Commission in 1945. The following year, Gov. Frank J. Lausche appointed Locher as his legal counsel.

Lausche was defeated in the November 1946 election, and Locher returned to private practice in Cleveland. ­­­

Then in 1949, Lausche returned as governor, bringing with him Locher as the governor’s secretary.  Lausche appointed Locher as a delegate to the National Council on State Government from 1950 to 1953.

It was during these Lausche years that Locher came to be identified with the branch of the Ohio Democratic Party known as Cosmopolitan Democrats. Once again his Romanian mother and his father’s Swiss background came into play as many of these politicians were first or second generation immigrants from Europe.

Locher left the Lausche Administration in 1953 to become Cleveland’s law director under Mayor Anthony Celebrezze, Sr. While serving as law director, Locher represented the City of Cleveland before the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing the city’s case against the private Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co.

Another significant development occurred in 1959. Locher became President of the National Institute of Municipal Law Officers (NIMLO), and later served as chair of NIMLO's Task Force on Bid-Rigging Damages.

A Bluffton household name

If Ralph Locher wasn’t already a household name in Bluffton, he became one thanks to President John F. Kennedy’s appointment in 1962 of Cleveland Mayor Celebrezze to a U.S. cabinet position.

Celebrezze became Department of Health, Education and Welfare, directly affecting Locher’s future because Cleveland’s City Charter at the time designated that its law director become the mayor until a special election takes place.

Although Locher emersed himself in Ohio politics, as mayor of Ohio’s largest city, it wasn’t until the early 1960s that he embarked on his first-ever political campaign. As a side note, many political pundits believed Locher hadn’t a chance in the mayoral race.

Described as too mild-mannered and without political skills, however, he swamped his opposition so decisively in that special election that he was unopposed when he ran for a full term the next year.

His special election opposition included Republican Willard W. Brown and Democrat Mark McElroy. Locher’s win was by the largest majority acquired by any mayoral candidate in the history of Cleveland. He also won re-election in 1965 for a full two-year term.


Locher’s mayoral accomplishments ranged from attempting to emphasize an efficient administration, low taxes, the preservation of Cleveland Municipal Power and promotion of neighborhood improvements.

Three additional accomplishments were:

• successful mediation of a 13-week newspaper strike, affecting both major Cleveland dailies

• doubling of the size of the Port of Cleveland • expansion of Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

Other Cleveland developments during his administration included creation of Cleveland State University and groundbreaking for the downtown campus of Cuyahoga Community College.

In his 1966-67 term, the Locher Administration came under increased pressure to improve living conditions in the inner city Hough neighborhood, to work with trade union leaders to increase African-American membership in trade and craft unions and to speed urban renewal reconstruction.

Locher was not successful in these three areas and urban renewal development money was withheld. This and the impact of the Hough riot in 1967 led to his defeat in the Democratic primary by Carl B. Stokes.

Locher returned to public service in 1968, when he was elected to complete an unexpired term on the Cuyahoga Common Pleas Court. In 1972, Locher successfully campaigned for election to a six-year term as Cuyahoga County Probate Court judge. Four years later, Locher was elected to the Supreme Court of Ohio and he held that position until 1988.

According to the Ohio State Supreme Court website Justice Locher authored 97 opinions and was known to write non-controversial opinions with most of the written opinions demonstrating his expertise in utility issues. He also devoted his attention to writing opinions deciding issues relating to local government.

Following his retirement from the Supreme Court bench, in 1989 he was named a Hall of Excellence recipient of the Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges. Civil rights activist Coretta Scott King was also a recipient that year.

This writer observed a 1978 Bluffton College event where Locher demonstrated his political skills in a very simple, but highly effective way.

During a reception in Marbeck Center Locher worked the room, introducing himself to everyone simply by asking for their autograph. This approach created a buzz and made him the most memorable person in an otherwise routine dessert.

His obituary published on the Ohio Supreme Court website describes Locher as a champion of local government, drawing from his experience as Cleveland’s mayor and law director and Cuyahoga County Common Pleas and Probate Court Judge.

It continued stating in Chief Justice Moyer’s opinion, Locher also had a strong influence on the Court itself, helping to create a collegial atmosphere where the Justices “could vigorously debate the issues before the Court but keep respect for each other.”

Following retirement from the Supreme Court, the Lochers lived in the suburb of Beachwood. He was a member of the governing board of Old Stone Church and the board of managers of the Central Branch of the YMCA. Locher died in his Beachwood home on his 65th wedding anniversary.


Ivan "Ike" Geiger, class of 1927

R.L. Triplett, class of 1902

1931-32 Bluffton High School student senate

1932 Ohio High School championship debate team:

Gordon Alderer, Ralph Locher, Paul Stauffer (coach), and Don Smucker

Ralph Lochr's high school senior photo

 Mayor Ralph Locher addressing the

Cleveland Press Club in 1967

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Ralph S. Locher's official portrait - Michael A. Satisfy, artist

Dec. 14, 1950, front page story in Bluffton News



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