During a blizzard in the late 70’s a city worker in Mt. Pleasant was driving a snowplow. It was after dark and he could hardly see beyond the truck’s snow blade.
At a stoplight, he heard a pounding on the side of his truck. He turned and saw the face of Mt. Pleasant’s mayor, Edd King, pressed against the window. Mayor King shouted, “I just wanted to know if I could ride along with you for awhile, to see what it’s like clearing the streets!” The driver welcomed him in. Mayor King rode with the snowplow driver until midnight. The next day, Mayor King hopped on a snowmobile and delivered groceries and medications to shut-ins. Because that is the kind of mayor Edd King was.
On December 10, 1986, a deranged citizen, Ralph Orin Davis, upset over sewer problems, walked into Mt. Pleasant’s city council meeting, and shot and killed Mayor King, and severely wounded two other people. One of the wounded, lying on the floor, thinking he was dying, wrote on the underside of a council table in his own blood, “I love God.” He wanted his family to know that he was saved and would be alright.
Needless to say, the City of Mt. Pleasant, and the nation, reeled in shock. Municipalities across the country panicked, wondering if metal detectors should be installed.
Over 2,000 people attended the funeral of Mayor King. Nine Bluebird school buses were used to shuttle people between the funeral and cemetery. Over 100 uniformed law officers from around the state stood at attention and saluted as King’s casket passed by.
In addition to being mayor, Edd King was Vice President and Director of Personnel at what was then known as Metromail. Walking through the plant, he knew everyone by their first name. Outside of work, he would often go to sheriffs’ sales around the state, buy confiscated bicycles, fix them up, and give them to needy kids.
Edd found out that a member of Mt. Pleasant’s high school track team had qualified for the Drake Relays, a significant accomplishment for the student and Mt. Pleasant Community School. However, the student’s track shoes were worn, and his family could not afford new ones. Edd found out and bought the student new shoes so that he could compete at the prestigious Drake Relays to the best of his ability. Edd King wanted everyone to perform to the best of their abilities, including himself—an admirable position for a mayor and personnel director.
Edd also loved antique cars, and owned a couple of classic T-Birds. He would drive a convertible T-Bird in the Old Thresher’s Parade, wave at people and throw candy to the kids.
Edd King and Ernie Hayes put Mt. Pleasant, at the crossroads of Highway 218 and 34, on the map. They were instrumental in bringing Pioneer Hi-Bred International and the Wal-Mart Distribution Center to Mt. Pleasant. Edd King knew Sam Walton personally and pestered him relentlessly until Walton agreed to build the distribution center, at the time Wal-Mart’s most northern location, in Mt. Pleasant. When asked how the decision was made to build the distribution center in Mt. Pleasant, when other, bigger cities were vying for the opportunity, Walton stated emphatically, “Because Edd King kept calling me. He would ask, ‘What can we do to make this happen?’”
King also helped expand Blue Bird Midwest, Motorola, Metromail, the airport, and kept Amtrak running through Mt. Pleasant. Heatilator, Goodyear, Cargill and Ceco were all encouraged by Mayor Edd King’s infectious enthusiasm. Ernie Hayes and Edd King were instrumental in seeing the Avenue of the Saints, that runs from St. Paul, MN to St. Louis, MO, to completion.
One of Edd King’s goals before he died was to rebuild the PEO Fountain in Mt. Pleasant’s Central Park. After his death, a radiothon was conducted by Tom Vilsack to raise money for “Edd’s Fountain.” Some of the dignitaries who called in were: Vice President George Bush: “Mayor Edd King set a fine example for all Iowans and indeed, all Americans. He never looked back, he looked forward.” Iowa Governor Terry Brandstad: “Edd King was truly an outstanding community leader. Whether it was the Old Threshers Reunion or opening a new plant or industry, Edd was always there providing the leadership to make Mt. Pleasant better.” Congressman Jim Leach: “Edd King was a model citizen. He worked hard for his family, for his company, for his community.” Pat Keyes, Secretary’s Representative for the United States Dept. of Transportation: “Mayor King and I worked with the F.A.A. to obtain the extension of the runway, and the new airport terminal. The F.A.A. regarded Edd King as one of the finest officials with whom they had ever worked. Edd King’s runway will extend forever—into the next world. Well done my good and faithful servant.”
One project that Edd King was not in favor of was the Mt. Pleasant Correctional Facility. However, once the decision was made to build it, King threw his entire support behind the project. Because that was the kind of leader he was. Former Iowa Governor Robert Ray related: “Once the decision was made, instead of trying to prove that he was right and was going to work to make it fail, he took the other position and said, ‘I’m going to help make it succeed.’”
Hal Farrier, Iowa Department of Corrections: “Needless to say, Edd King was a most formidable foe. He was a man of principles and acted strong and decisively for what he believed was best for the community. Once it became apparent that the prison was here to stay, Edd became one of its most ardent supporters. He was committed to the notion that if Mt. Pleasant was going to have a prison, it would be the best in Iowa. I will always remember Edd as a superman in a business suit.”
Following the assassination of Edd King, Iliff King, Edd’s father, approached a young lawyer in Mt. Pleasant, Tom Vilsack, and asked him to run for mayor. Tom did and was elected mayor for several terms. Vilsack then ran and was elected as State Senator. Then he was governor of Iowa. For a short time he considered running for president. Under President Obama, he was Secretary of Agriculture. He was considered as a Vice Presidential candidate for Hillary Clinton. Now, under President Elect Joe Biden, he will be Secretary of Agriculture again. He credits Edd King as his model of a man who worked hard for the people he served, kept an open mind, and did not look back.
The Edd King Memorial Fountain in Central Park was restored in 2016. Tom Vilsack was the keynote speaker at the dedication. The fountain is quiet now, with winter and freezing temperatures halting water flow. However, it is still a bulwark and reminder of Mt. Pleasant’s most respected mayor, a man who put people before self.
Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at email@example.com or visit his website at www.empty-nest-words-photos-and-frames.com.