Unlocking the key to Evansville history

Local

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT)- The year was 1959 and Evansville was in the midst of a bitterly contested primary between Democratic incumbent Mayor Bill Davidson and former sheriff Frank McDonald Sr.

Davidson had only taken office months earlier, taking over from former Mayor Vance Hartke, who was elected the U.S. Senate. The rivalry between Davidson and McDonald began when Davidson was elected to lead the local Democratic Party and began replacing people loyal to McDonald.

Evansville Director of Metropolitan Development Kelley Coures says Davidson was a good executive, but a worse politician.

McDonald ran against Davidson in the upcoming primary and won, but the hostilities between the two men did not end there. Coures says McDonald accused Davidson of conspiring with the Republican nominee, Don Ingle, in the general election. Despite that, McDonald beat Ingle by just over 4,000 votes.

When Inauguration Day came, Davidson not only refused to attend the ceremony, he reportedly refused to hand over the keys to the mayor’s office. Coures says McDonald’s secretary had to break open a window and unlock the door from the inside.

While Davidson faded into political obscurity after his brief term in office, McDonald would be elected to several more terms in office, serving until 1972.

(This story was originally published on January 20, 2021)

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