New Bedford’s Longest-Serving Mayor Left His Mark on the City
The New York Times referred to him as New Bedford's "permanent mayor." Charles Sumner Ashley (September 5, 1858 - February 6, 1941) was Mayor of New Bedford for nearly 40 years, serving over 25 terms at various times from 1890 to 1936.
Ashley's tenure as mayor included 1918 when the so-called Spanish Flu ravaged the nation and the world.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Linda Roy wrote about an article originally penned by Peggi Medeiros and published in the Standard-Times in 2018, marking the 100th anniversary of the pandemic and stating that Ashley may have succeeded in saving many lives in New Bedford.
“Mayor Ashley was wise enough to close the schools. He made sure churches and bars closed. Any form of public entertainment stopped," the article stated.
New Bedford had a population of 120,000 at the time of the Spanish Flu. It is believed as many as 799 New Bedford residents died as a result of the virus.
According to geneology site WikiTree.com, Ashley married Annie Budlong (Luce) Ashley in November 1879. She died in 1890, the same year Ashley was first elected mayor. The couple had four children: Hannah Butler (Ashley) Greeley, R. Eugene Ashley, Charles Sumner Ashley, Jr., and Susie Brown Ashley.
Ashley married Julia Azela (Howard) Ashley in 1892. There is no record of the couple having children, according to WikiTree.com.
First elected in 1932, Mayor Ashley was 83 years old when he died in 1941. Charles S. Ashley Elementary School on Ashley Boulevard was named in his honor. The boulevard was no doubt named for him as well.
Mayor Ashley was a colorful character. There is a famous quote attributed to him, though I cannot vouch for its authenticity. According to legend, when asked by a reporter why he had not plowed the streets of New Bedford following a snowstorm, Ashley is alleged to have said, "The good Lord put it there, let the good Lord take it away."
I'd like to think the legend is true.
Who was Mayor of New Bedford when you were born? I've included a link for you to see. I was born in 1958 when Francis J. Lawler was mayor.