Notable People

Robert Johns Bulkley - United States Senator

292 Corning Drive
Senator Robert Johns Bulkley
Senator Robert Johns Bulkley

Bulkley was elected as a Democratic U. S. Representative 62nd Congress for the 21st District from 1911 to 1915. As a member of the Banking & Currency Committee, he helped frame the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 and the Federal Farm Loan Ace. During World War I, he served as chief of the legal section of the War Industries Board.

In 1930, Bulkley ran to fill the unexpired term of Senator Theodore Burton. Advocating Prohibition’s repeal, he won and was elected again in 1932. He supported the New Deal and also backed Roosevelt’s plan to enlarge the Supreme Court, which contributed to his defeat by Republican Robert A. Taft in 1938.

The senator belonged to one of the country’s few social, wealthy Democrat families. He was part of the New Deal and friend of President Roosevelt, his Harvard classmate. Senator Harry Truman had a luncheon at his home and Vice-President Alben Barkley stayed at the house. Xavier Cugat, the Spanish-American bandleader, was a guest during the Great Lakes Exposition.

Returning to Cleveland, He became a senior partner in the Cleveland law firm of Bulkley & Butler. He also headed the Bulkley Building Co. and helped found the Morris Plan Bank of Ohio, serving as president and chairman of the board for over 30 years. The company constructed the Bulkley Building at 1501 Euclid Avenue that opened in 1921. The eight-story office and had a front of sandstone, and one impressive feature was the Allen Theater. The architect was C. Howard Crane.

During the depression, Bulkley kept his office in his home because job-hunting lines in front of the Bulkley building disrupted regular business. Five secretaries were running around his house.

Robert Johns Bulkley Sr. was born on October 8, 1880, in Cleveland to Charles and Roberta Bulkley. He was raised at 2926 Euclid Avenue and 11475 Lakeshore Boulevard in Glenville on the Lake (Bratenahl).

Robert attended University School and Brooks Military College.  While at University School, he was editor-in-chief of University School News, Ohio’s oldest school paper. The first issue appeared on January 18, 1898.

He took both literary and law courses at Harvard law school and received a bachelor of arts in 1902 and a master of arts in 1906. Passing the Ohio bar in 1906, he began to practice with Henderson Quail & Siddell, and in 1909, formed the firm of Bulkley & Inglis.

Robert married Katharine Pope of Helena, Montana February 17, 1909. She was born on August 9, 1886. They had three children: Robert Johns Jr., born on July 11, 1911, William Pope was born on September 3, 1913, and Katherine was born on January 7, 1916. William died on January 6, 1926, at age 12.

During a stay of several months in Washington,  Katharine suffered heart attacks. She was brought back to Bratenahl in June 1932, and her condition gradually grew worse. She died July 17, 1932, at age 46 from another heart attack.

Two years later, Bulkley remarried Helen Graham Robbins, born on July 6, 1904, in Ontario, Canada. She was a thirty-year-old widow from Chicago, and he was a fifty-three-year-old widower. They had one child, Rebecca Johns, born on December 1, 1939.

Under his leadership, the Northern Ohio Opera Association formed in 1927, the first of its kind in the nation. He retired from leading the organization in 1937.

Bulkley was a trustee of University School. Social memberships included The Country, Hermit, Tavern, Union and University clubs plus the Harvard Club of New York, and the Montana Club of Helena, Montana.

Robert Bulkley died on July 21, 1965, at age 85. Helen died on October 31, 1987, and was buried alongside Robert in Lake View Cemetery.