The man credited with overhauling Indiana’s tax system before serving as a member of President Reagan’s cabinet died Saturday in Donaldson. Former Gov. Otis Bowen was 95. The physician from Bremen was elected Marshall County Coroner in 1952 and later served in the General Assembly before being elected governor by a landslide in 1972. Bowen held that office from 1973-81, during which time he doubled the state’s sales tax to four percent in order to offset a promised cut in property taxes. Thanks to a constitutional amendment he was Indiana’s first governor to serve consecutive terms in office since the 1800s, and he easily won reelection in 1976.
Reagan named Bowen Secretary of Health and Human Services in 1985. He oversaw the federal government’s response to the AIDS epidemic and helped raise public awareness of the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases.
Gov. Mike Pence calls Bowen’s contributions to the life of the state “incalculable.” Pence has also ordered flags be flown at half-staff in honor of the late statesman. Bowen’s funeral is Friday, May 10 at 11 a.m. EDT at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Bremen. Visitation is Wednesday from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. and Thursday from 4-8 p.m. at the church.