Mayor Charles Wheeler. Photo ourtesy of the City of Kansas City, Mo.

Charles ‘Charlie’ B. Wheeler, who served the people of Kansas City as mayor from 1971-1979, has died at the age of 96.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas called Wheeler “one of the finest people ever to serve our community,” in a release issued Wednesday morning.

Current Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas shakes hands with former mayor Charles Wheeler in the City Council Chambers at Kansas City’s City Hall. Photo courtesy of the City of Kansas City, Mo.

“He started his long career in service as a member of the United States Navy and later as a public servant for many years in Kansas City,” Lucas said.

Mayor Wheeler leaves behind a legacy, which will be felt for generations to come, having led Kansas City through the opening of the Kansas City International Airport, Bartle Hall, and Kemper Arena, launching Kansas City into the convention town we know it to be today, and positively raising our community’s national and international profile, Lucas added. He also helped lead Kansas City through its recovery following the devastating floods of 1977. 

“Mayor Wheeler was a statesman all Kansas Citians, Missourians, and Americans could be proud of, who, in addition to his service in elective office, bravely served our country in the U.S. Navy as a flight surgeon before returning to school to earn his juris doctorate,” Lucas said. “Since becoming mayor, I have been proud to call him a personal friend and a mentor. He will be missed.”

Jackson County Executive Frank White Jr. said the county is mourning Wheeler today.

“We are sad he’s no longer with us, but extremely blessed he dedicated a portion of his 96 years to make our home in the heartland a better place,” White shared on Twitter Wednesday.

U.S. Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II called Charlie Wheeler a dear friend, an important mentor, and the most visionary Mayor in the history of our great city.

“During my eight years as Mayor, I was blessed to have had the likes of Charlie Wheeler, Ike Davis, and Dick Berkley as guides through the best and worst of times—and our city was better off for it,” Cleaver said. “Having both a J.D. and an M.D., Charlie very likely was the smartest Mayor in our city’s history. And when you mix that with his daring, you get a powerful combination of genius with imagination. That was Charlie Wheeler. I will miss my friend, and the city will miss his ingenuity. We all owe him heartfelt gratitude for his public service, and I pray that his memory will be a blessing for all that had the privilege to know him.”

Mayor Wheeler leaves behind his daughter Marion and his daughter Nina, whom he was able to spend two beautiful weeks with prior to his passing, and is preceded in death by his sons Gordon, Mark, and Graham, and Kansas City’s former First Lady, his beloved wife Marjorie.