Almost a century ago, some folks figured G.A. Bodenheim might as well be appointed mayor of Longview for life.
After all, the colorful “Bodie” had served as mayor in 1904-16 and 1918-20. He was responsible for Longview’s modern water and sewer systems, a paid fire department, downtown lighting and an annexation that brought the town’s population to 5,000. Why, the man even had a city park named after him.
When most elections rolled around, Bodenheim didn’t even draw an opponent.
But that changed in 1920 when Mayor Bodenheim was upset by Dr. W.D. Northcutt, longtime local physician and member of a pioneer Longview family.
Northcutt had served as a city alderman 1891-93 and 1896-98. During the latter two years, he served with his father, W.G. Northcutt, on the city council. In 1898, W.D. Northcutt was elected mayor.
Born in 1861 in Georgia, William Davis Northcutt moved with his family to the new town of Longview in late 1870. He studied at Texas A&M, received his medical degree from the University of Louisville in Kentucky and returned to Longview to set up practice.
The young man married Eda Mauthe in 1888. The couple, which eventually had seven children, built a 1902 Victorian house on South Fredonia Street that still stands.
Northcutt was a local physician and surgeon for 45 years. He also worked as a doctor for several railroad companies, including the Texas and Pacific, and was much involved in community life.
He was active at First Baptist Church, a volunteer firefighter and a Mason.
In the spring of 1920, Northcutt threw his hat into the Longview mayor’s race. It was unusual for Bodenheim to have an opponent, but a couple of earlier incidents threatened to siphon votes from the longtime mayor.
In August 1916, while Bodenheim was in his eighth successive term as mayor, the Peoples State Bank of Longview announced a shortage of $100,000 and suddenly closed. Bodenheim, described in press accounts as “a heavy stockholder,” was charged with embezzlement.
He resigned as mayor in December 1916.
However, after a September 1917 trial, Bodenheim was acquitted of all charges. He ran again successfully for mayor in 1918.
In July 1919, Longview suffered through a bloody race riot. Mayor Bodenheim requested the National Guard. Martial law was declared and troops patrolled the city for several days. While bringing in Guardsmen quelled the violence, some residents were upset with Bodenheim for bringing in “outsiders.”
Against that backdrop Northcutt and Bodenheim squared off in the 1920 mayoral election.
On April 6, Northcutt drew 309 votes to Bodie’s 51.
The doctor was sworn in as mayor on May 20. According to City Council minutes, “Mayor Bodenheim in a few well chosen words turned over to the incoming mayor his seat as chief executive of the city. Mayor-elect W.D. Northcutt took the chair and made a short address to the Council in which he paid a high tribute to the retiring mayor.” Northcutt announced that his first major project would be to “drain the town as nearly as possible” of the disease-bearing mosquito. (Interestingly, we continue to battle the pesky bug.)
Northcutt served as mayor until April 1923. He was 70 years old when he died on Nov. 20, 1931. The Longview News-Journal of Nov. 22 called Northcutt “one of Longview’s pioneer and most widely beloved citizens.”
Fellow physician Dr. L.N. Markham said, “Dr. Northcutt was a real physician in every sense of the word ... He never shunned a duty . . . I do not think that there has ever been a death in Longview that has struck such a universal and widespread note of sympathy and grief as the passing of Dr. Northcutt.”
G.A. Bodenheim, who lost the 1920 mayor’s race to Northcutt, made a good living as a cotton broker and insurance agent. “Bodie” died on Aug. 12, 1957, only a day short of his 84th birthday.