Frazier Reams was one of the most interesting and vibrant men to have ever called Toledo home. He was involved in business, law, politics, and the beginning of the radio and television industries of Toledo.
Frazier Reams was born on Jan. 15, 1897, in Franklin, Tennessee. His father was a Methodist Minister.(Toledo Biography Scrapbook, Local History Room, Toledo Lucas County Public Library). After attending a preparatory school, Reams began taking classes at the University of Tennessee. His education was interrupted by the U.S. entry into World War I in 1917. He joined the army and eventually became a 2nd Lieutenant in a field artillary regiment. After the war he returned to the University of Tennessee and earned his degree in 1919. He received his law degree from Vanderbilt University in 1922.[Charles S. VanTassel, ed., Story of the Maumee Valley, Toledo and the Sandusky Region, vol.3 (Chicago: S.J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1929), p.186]. After graduation, he came to Toledo to visit his brother who was studying to be a Doctor. He fell in love with the city and he decided to make his home here.
After moving to Toledo he joined the law firm of Tracy, Chapman, & Welles. He later left the firm to take the position of an assistant trust officer of the Commercial Savings and Trust Company. Two years later he was made a trust officer. He was eventually made vice-president.(Toledo Biography Scrapbook). In 1926 he was elected commander of the Toledo Post of the American Legion. In 1927 and 1928 he served on the Legion's State Executive Committee.[(Van Tassel, p.187). Harry R. Lilman, Unholy Toledo (San Francisco: Polemic Press Publications, 1985), pp.156-62].
In 1928 Reams made his first foray into politics. That year he was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. In 1932 Reams was made the County Prosecutor. Prohibition had resulted in the creation of powerful gangs around the country and Toledo was no exception.(Toledo Biography Scrapbook.) The most famous gang was the Purple Gang, with Tony Lacovoli as leader. Into this situation stepped Reams. He organized a group of investigators to carry out his orders. It was with this core group that he prevailed in a famous trial, State of Ohio vs Thomas (Yonnie) Licavoli.
During the trial Reams proved Licavolis duplicity in the murders of Abe Lubitsky, Norman Blatt, Jack Kennedy and girlfriend Louise Bell. The American Legion at this time supported Reams fully. They gave warning to Toledo's criminals that they would kill them if Reams or his family were harmed. Reams earned the title, ("The Man Who Saved Toledo."Lilman, pp.156-62). This trial brought national exposure to Reams and helped him to receive an appointment by President Roosevelt as Democratic Campaign Chair in Ohio.(Toledo Biography Scrapbook.)
His dealings with Licavoli were not over. Ten years later he was called in when there were rumors of special privileges in prison for gang leaders. It took Reams only six weeks to clean up corruption in the prisons. For his efforts he was appointed director of Public Welfare in Ohio by Governor Lausche who had defeated him in the election for Governor that year. During his time as the director he raised $5 million for a new central prison and implemented programs for the reform of the state prisons. Most notably he attacked idleness and encouraged work for the prisoners. His motto was: Idleness is the Devils Workshop.
During the late 1930's Reams got back into politics. His political aspirations were renewed by a couple of unsuccessful runs for Ohio Attorney General in 1936. Three years after his failed runs, he was appointed a collector of Internal Revenue. After the U.S. entered World War II he was made Director of the 5th Regional Office of Civilian Defense.
Reams then ran for Governor twice and lost. He also ran for the Senate and lost. In 1950 he ran for the House of Representatives as an Independent and won. It was one of his greatest triumphs. He was the only Independent and the first to be elected in 20 years when he took his seat in the House. He received the special privilege of being chairman of the Subcommittee of the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee, which is extremely rare for a freshman. He also served on the House Committee on Organized crime. Frazier Reams was a supporter of the St. Lawrence Seaway, liberalization of immigration laws, and the direct Presidential primary.(The Blade, September 15, 1971). In 1952 he won reelection in another three way race. He was already one of the most respected members of the House. During the next election Reams luck ran out and he was defeated in his reelection (ibid).
During this time Reams was busy in other areas. In 1937 he formed his own law firm. Also that year he, along with Thomas Betherton and Morton Niepp, formed the Community Broadcasting Corporation. Which had the call letters for am and fm of WTOL. This would eventually became Channel 11 in 1958. He was involved in both the radio and television stations until they were sold in 1965. He later bought back the radio station which had been renamed WCWA.
Reams was also on the commission that created the Toledo Port Authority. He served as vice chairman from its creation in 1955 until 1963. On September 15, 1971, Reams died. He was survived by his wife and two children.
Frazier Reams's grave
(Photography of Woodlawn Cemetery by Josef Schneider.)