INDIANAPOLIS - Former Indiana Gov. Otis “Doc” Bowen died Saturday evening at the Catherine Kasper Life Center in Donaldson, Ind., Gov. Mike Pence’s office said.
Bowen, 95, was elected Indiana’s 44th governor in 1972.
“Governor Otis R. Bowen’s contributions to the life of this state and nation are incalculable, and I mark his passing with a sense of personal loss. His story is as inspiring as it is uniquely Hoosier,” Pence said.
Bowen was the first governor since 1851 to serve two consecutive terms in the office.
Bowen, a Republican, led Indiana through a season of reform in taxes, healthcare and government administration, Pence said.
He also advanced historic improvements to the state park and recreation system.
"Doc Bowen was the best example of a public leader in our state and nation because of his demeanor, intellect, wisdom and range of abilities that brought achievement and success to everything he did," former U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar said. "Whether it was a call from a patient, a constituent, or his country, Doc could not refuse to serve."
Before he was elected governor, he served in the Army medical corps during World War II and began a private practice when he returned home after the war.
"We are sad to learn of the passing of Gov. Otis "Doc" Bowen. His contributions to family medicine and medical education will not be forgotten," said The Indiana Academy of Family Physicians.
After serving as governor, he returned to medicine as a professor at Indiana University Medical Center until President Ronald Reagan nominated him to be the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Bowen led that government agency until Reagan left office.
"He could have said, I'm finished. I'm going home to relax and my career's over, but it also shows that being governor isn't the end of your career and he went on to become very distinguished in the Reagan administration," said RTV6 political contributor Lara Beck.
He promoted public awareness of the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases and worked to mail pamphlets to 107 million households with explicit advice on how to avoid the AIDS virus, including using condoms.
During a 1987 news conference, Bowen gave a bit of advice that entered the national lexicon: "Remember, when a person has sex, they're not just having it with that partner, they're having it with everybody that partner had it with for the past 10 years."
"That's something in the lexicon today that we try to tell young people. Who would have thought it was a former governor of Indiana," said RTV6 political contributor Abdul-Hakim Shabazz.
In 1979, Bowen refused to extradite Indiana University basketball coach Bob Knight to Puerto Rico after the coach was convicted in absentia and sentenced to six months in jail for hitting a policeman during the Pan Am Games.
"Indiana lost a humble giant whose soft spoken, yet firm convictions influenced many Hoosiers, including me. The good doctor and good governor will long be remembered as an example of political leadership and human decency," said Sen. Dan Coats.
“Karen and I send our deepest sympathies and prayers to his family, his wife Carol and to his children and grandchildren during this difficult time. God bless you, Doc. Your caring work as a physician, your service and your leadership left Indiana and our nation better for you having been here. You will be missed and your contributions to Indiana will be remembered always,” Pence said.
Pence has ordered all flags at state facilities to be flown at half-staff to honor Bowen. Flags should be flown at half-staff for seven days from his passing.
Pence also asked businesses and residents to lower their flags to half-staff to honor Bowen for his service to Indiana and the nation.
His funeral will be held Friday in his hometown of Bremen.
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