Ethics Dunce: Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry

Mayor Trivial T. Spineless

He was, without question, the best mayor Fort Wayne, Indiana has ever had. When he first took office, he consolidated city departments launched construction of Fort Wayne’s massive underground sewage system and built the city sewage treatment plant, which is used to this day, seventy years later. When W.W. II came, he held war materials drives, upgraded city equipment and services, and broke ground for was is now Fort Wayne International Airport. and lowered city tax rates. In his last term, he opened up a major area of the town for development by elevating the railroad tracks. And he kept taxes low.

For 21 years beginning in 1934, this dedicated public servant was only not mayor for three years: he died at his post in 1954. And the people of Ft. Wayne haven’t forgotten him. This year, when city officials asked its citizens to vote on whose name the new government center should bear, the response was overwhelming. Ten times more people again voted for the former mayor they had always voted for while he was alive than for anyone or anything else (the runner-up choice was “Thunderdome”).

The current mayor, however, has decided not follow the results of the poll. He thinks the name would be inappropriate. You see, the famous leader that the people of Fort Wayne want to honor was named Harry Baals.

The current mayor’s name?  Trivial T. Spineless.

OK, not really: it’s Tom Henry. But that should be his name, and if the people of Fort Wayne permit his juvenile terror of the jokes of 7th graders, Howard Stern and Gilbert Gottfried to prevent them from honoring the legacy of a local hero, maybe the city’s name should be changed to Gutless.

Somehow, Baals’ suggestive name didn’t impede his political career any, or curb his determination to do everything he could to build Fort Wayne. Wouldn’t you think his successors would be the last people to quail at the prospect of snickers from children and morons who might chortle, “Hey! They said….balls! <snort! snort!>” Wouldn’t you hope that gratitude, respect, fairness and basic adulthood would prevail to allow today’s mayor of Fort Wayne to ignore the predictable morons and properly honor his greatest predecessor? Wouldn’t you be certain that Harry Baals’ lifetime of service to the city he loved would be sufficient for his name to be a matter of pride to that city, and not embarrassment?

Not for Mayor Henry. Maybe he was always making fun of his brother Dick Henry (“Hey! You said….dick! <snort! snort!>“) Maybe he’s really a prematurely gray thirteen years old. The most likely conclusion is that he doesn’t have the judgment, common sense, or sense of responsibility to know when a community’s debt to a man’s memory should take priority over an irrational fear of double entendres.

And, predictably, because unethical traits go in clusters, Henry is a liar, and a coward too. His spokesman announced that the real reason Mayor Henry is rejecting the will of the people is that he doesn’t think the new government center should be named after an individual.


Absolutely nobody believes him.

Dick!  Oh, wait…that’s his brother.

15 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry

  1. Then again, with what I know about online polls (for example, the winner of the Daily Guardian’s informal poll for a possible redesign of the Union Jack was a reference to a relatively popular Japanese cartoon), it’s possible that some of the voters who voted for Harry Baals did so primarily for the innuendo (though he seems to have been well-respected enough to have won regardless). Still, I agree with the analysis.

  2. Poor Julian has probably had to put up with licencious juvenile humor as well! It seems to me that naming something for, say, Harold (Q.?) Baals would be quite acceptable. (Most visitors would probably pronounce it “bales” anyway.) It’s unfortunate that some people who deserve to be honored are denied because either their names sound silly or have acquired a distasteful veneer after their times. Pity General Joseph (Fighting Joe) Hooker, whose name was sequestered by Women of Easy Virtue into the present day. Pity in particular one of the most brilliant and innovative civil engineers of the 19th Century… Thomas J. Crapper, whose most long serving invention has only served to lower his name to; well, you know. You’ll never hear of anything noble bearing their names, regardless of their lifetime achievements. Unfair? Yes. But so are the whims of fate!

    • Actually, it’s been surprisingly ok for me, possibly because I can give better than I get in regards to the amount of juvenile puns I can make about people’s names. (I was surprised no-one ever made William Hung jokes about me, especially considering that I used to have a U.C. Berkeley t-shirt handed down from my mom.

      • Julian, I am suddenly horrified to realize that I have neither thought about the obvious potential of your last name for bad jokes, NOR recognized the obvious William Hung possibilities. Oh God. I’m losing it.

    • Note: Thomas Crapper did not invent the toilet, and it was invented in the 16th century, not the 19th. Come on, I normally trust you on a-religious history! I can’t fault you too much. The original Trivial Pursuit also got it wrong.

      • Hi, TGT. What Mr. Crapper did was develop what he called The Universal Waterways Disposal System. This was, as you point out, a refinement of earlier concepts. By placing a self-refilling tank above the commode with a self shut-off device with (in the original) an easily used yank-chain, he created a system that was so convenient that it’s remained essentially unchanged for well more than a century. Others did it first, but Tom got it right. Kind of like Robert Fulton and the steamboat! Most great inventions have gone through this developmental process.

        • Agreed. My toilet is still essentially Mr. Crapper’s, and it’s been in my house since it was built in 1957. I don’t think the previous incarnations would have made it 50+ years with the only maintence being replacement of a piece of rubber.

  3. Two things went against him at Chancellorsvile, Jack. First; no one could have predicted that Jackson could sneak around the Union flank with his entire Corps undetected! Second; a Confederate battery managed to shell his headquarters. Hooker was rendered semi-conscious by a hunk of brick and was essentially out of the loop at the most crucial moment. Unfortunately, under the Lincoln administration, you rarely got more than one chance as a field army commander. Hooker’s name got it’s present usage because he tended to turn a blind eye to the activities of many of the “camp foll0wers”. It’s true that, because of his “enlightened” ideas of Army life, the VD rates shot up dramatically! He was a fine corps commander, but an unlucky army one. C’est d’guerre.

    • Modern analysts think Hooker might have been having a seizure from alcoholic withdrawal, as he famously quit drinking befor that campaign.No brick—like Lloyd Bridges in “Airplane!”, he picked the wrong day to quit drinking.

  4. Poor Fightin’ Joe just isn’t going to get a break from History, is he?! His descendents seriously need to step forward right now. It could be worse, though. Some of New York’s best, most law abiding citizens don’t even dare use their real family name in public. The Hitlers!

  5. Jack,
    Has anyone considered the possibility that his popularity in the naming rights poll had less to do with his esteem and admiration by the people of Fort Wayne but because it really does sound funny? We’re constantly reminded how little the average American knows about politics to the point that it’s difficult for many to name the current President, Vice-President, or even a Supreme Court Justice , and yet still know an remember a major who died 1/2 a century ago?

    He sounds like a profound individual and one, perhaps, deserving to be memorialized in such a manner; I’m just not sure those who took part in the poll necessarily had pure motives. Which raises an interesting point: would wrong motivations on the part of the public still make naming the building after him the right, ethical thing to do?


    PS: Why doesn’t mayor spineless compromise and use his first and middle initial in the building name, making the innuendo somewhat less obvious (after all, there’s already and “H.W. Balls Drive” which, ironically, was changed from “Harry Baals Drive” because the signs kept getting stolen)?

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