Officials observe former councilman’s passing, legacy

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published September 27, 2019

 Former Sterling Heights City Councilman Bowman Chung passed away Sept. 18 at age 93. Chung served on the council during  part of the 1970s and 1980s. At one point,  he visited the White House to meet former  President Jimmy Carter.

Former Sterling Heights City Councilman Bowman Chung passed away Sept. 18 at age 93. Chung served on the council during part of the 1970s and 1980s. At one point, he visited the White House to meet former President Jimmy Carter.

Photo provided by Debbie Vercellone

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STERLING HEIGHTS — Serling Heights city officials are honoring the life of Bowman Chung, a former Sterling Heights city councilman who served during the 1970s and 1980s.

Chung passed away Sept. 18. He was 93.

According to city officials, Chung became a council member after four Sterling Heights council members were recalled in 1974. Then-Michigan Gov. William Milliken appointed Chung to fill a seat. After Chung served his interim term, he was elected and served from 1975 to 1983, according to city officials.

Mayor Michael Taylor said he extends his condolences to Chung’s family. The mayor said that while he didn’t know Chung personally, “He appeared to be a great guy and somebody who served the city well.

“I’m proud to serve the same city that he did,” Taylor said. “There is kind of a legacy, a connection. … There’s this unbroken chain of councils, this unbroken chain of council members who have served together, and they all serve the same goal.”

During Chung’s time in office, he and his fellow council members got to visit the White House in 1980. They witnessed President Jimmy Carter sign a bill that allowed a Volkswagen plant to operate in Sterling Heights, where a missile plant used to be. At the time, Carter was running in a Michigan presidential primary caucus against Sen. Ted Kennedy.

In a 1980 Detroit Free Press article, Chung is quoted on the White House driveway about the suddenness of the presidential meeting. He also praised Carter for trying to address unemployment, thus helping the city and the state.

“I didn’t even have a chance to call my wife. She doesn’t know where I am. It’s just hard to say no when the president calls you,” Chung said, later adding, “This is the most exciting day of my life. This is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me.”

Online records of Chung’s life and political past are scarce. But Sterling Heights librarian and historian Debbie Vercellone provided former Sterling Heights city officials’ oral history interview transcripts dating back to 1986. The transcripts included insights about Chung and the recall situation that led to his appointment.

Former Councilman Jose Benavides said the 1974 recall happened after some of the sitting council members had a dispute with the police chief. The dispute angered enough voters to rally and successfully recall four council members, Benavides said.

A transcript of another interview with former Sterling Heights Mayor Anthony Dobry confirmed that Chung had never held public office prior to his appointment. Dobry described Chung as Hawaiian and said he was “big in computers.”

Vercellone put the interviews with Benavides and Dobry in context, explaining that they were “off-the-cuff comments made during their oral history interview, based on their memories and political background.”

Chung’s visitation was scheduled for Sept. 28 at Bagnasco & Calcaterra Funeral Home in Sterling Heights. According to the funeral home, Chung was married to his late wife, Lillian, before marrying Alice. He also is survived by three children, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

On the funeral website’s tribute wall, Chung is remembered as “a joy to be around and easy to talk to,” a man who took up ballroom dancing with his second wife and found love again.

Find out more about Chung by visiting www.bcfhsterling heights.com/tributes/Bowman- Chung.

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