Jerry Springer at the Copacabana in New York for the launch of Michael Musto's new book, Fork on the Left, Knife in the Back. Photo by David Shankbone (Wikipedia)

By: Felicia Jordan

CINCINNATI — Jerry Springer, former television talk show host and mayor of Cincinnati, has died at the age of 79, according to the Associated Press.

A family spokesperson told TMZ Springer was diagnosed with cancer a few months ago and his health took a turn for the worse this week.

“Jerry’s ability to connect with people was at the heart of his success in everything he tried whether that was politics, broadcasting or just joking with people on the street who wanted a photo or a word,” said Jene Galvin, a family spokesperson and friend of Springer’s since 1970, in a statement. “He’s irreplaceable and his loss hurts immensely, but memories of his intellect, heart and humor will live on.”

Springer died peacefully at home in suburban Chicago after a brief illness, the statement said.

Springer grew up in New York and moved to Cincinnati in 1968 to work in a law firm after graduating from Northwestern University law school. He had already jumped into the political arena, working for Robert Kennedy’s presidential campaign.

In Cincinnati, he became chairman of the Hamilton County “Voter-19 Campaign,” which sought to lower the voting age in Ohio. He was a Pied Piper with young people, rallying big numbers of college and high school students.

The Democratic Party took notice and ran 26-year-old Springer for Congress in 1970 against four-term incumbent Republican Donald Clancy. Springer, an Army reservist, ran on an anti-war platform. Instead of being a sacrificial lamb, Springer got 45 percent of the vote in the heavily-Republican Second District.

He won a council seat on his first try in 1971 and was re-elected in 1973 with the second most votes behind popular Mayor Theodore M. Berry.

As a council member, Springer always seemed to get attention. Wearing bell-bottom blue jeans, he spent a day working with a garbage collection crew, hauling cans from the curb and dumping the trash in the back of the truck.

When the city took over local bus service, he hijacked a bus during the Fountain Square ceremonies and drove it around the block.

He spent a night locked up with prisoners at the old jail, a dungeon known as The Workhouse, saying he wanted to hear their problems and bring attention to their plight.

He borrowed a camper van and drove it to city neighborhoods on weekends to listen to residents. He said he did it because many people couldn’t get to City Hall so City Hall should go to them. He prided himself on responding to the “everyday problems of the average citizen.”

But Springer was also a controversial figure. To Tri-Staters old enough to remember, Jerry Springer will always be “the city council member who got caught paying for sex with checks.”

The future network TV host resigned in disgrace from Cincinnati city council on April 29, 1974 and made a tortured public confession and apology in front of every TV camera in town the next day.

Announcing his resignation and fidgetting at the City Hall podium under the hot glare of the cameras, Springer said he held out hope that he could resume political life in Cincinnati.

“It is my fondest wish to re-enter public life, but I believe the interest of the public is best served by my resignation until such time as the air has been cleared,” he said.

The next day Micki Springer told the Post she didn’t want her husband to resign.

“Politics – council – has been Jerry’s life and to give that up would destroy him,” she said. “It’s his whole life … I can’t stand to think of him throwing it all away.

Springer never faced charges, and was back in the political saddle; three years after his resignation as a Cincinnati council member, he was taking the oath of office as the city’s mayor in a packed council chambers, overflowing with the sound of cheering and clapping.

“When I think of being flat on my back three years ago, having this happen is almost unbelievable,” Springer said in 1977. “This is the best feeling I’ve ever had in my political life.”

Springer went on to be better known form hosting a tabloid talk show named after him from 1991 to 2018. He debuted his own podcast, hosted America’s Got Talent and hosted the courtroom show Judge Jerry.

Former WCPO digital reporter Greg Noble contributed to this report.

Reposted with permission from WCPO 9 Cincinnati.

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