Battle Creek Man Elected Governor….November 5th, 1946
Most people in Calhoun County know that our most recent former governor, Rick Snyder, was from Battle Creek. But there was another Michigan Governor who lived and worked here, and tragically died here.
“Hollywood” Kim Sigler was living in Battle Creek and practicing law here when he was elected Michigan’s 40th Governor on November 5th, 1946. Seven years later, Sigler died in a fiery small plane crash just west of town when is plane struck the WBCK-TV tower.
Kim Sigler made a name for himself in the mid-40’s as special prosecutor where he secured indictments against more than 100 state legislators and lobbyists. Many of them went to prison. Bribe taking to influence votes was exposed. There was even a murder involved! State Sen. Warren Hooper, a service-station owner from Albion, was executed near Springport, just before he was to testify in Lansing. Hooper was found dead in his burning car beside what is now M-99. He was forced off the road and shot three times in the head. Nobody was ever charged or prosecuted for the killing. There is speculation about who did it, in the book "Three Bullets Sealed His Lips", but Bruce Rubinstein and.Lawrence Ziewacz.
After cleaning house in Lansing, Kim Sigler ran for Governor and trounced Democratic Incumbent Murray D. Van Wagoner by 340,000 votes. But after one two-year term, Sigler, was unseated by present Democratic Gov. G. Mennen (Soapy) Williams. Sigler returned to his law practice in Battle Creek.
On December 1, 1953, Sigler and three passengers were killed when his personal plane crashed into the WBCK TV tower, north of Augusta. The owners of WBCK Radio, Dave and Bob Holmes, were awaiting FCC approval for a UHF TV station, and it had not yet gone on the air. It never would. According to the late Harry Conway, the Holmes’ insurance agent, the brothers took the insurance settlement and never did rebuild the TV tower.
Newspaper accounts of the plane crash stated that “Sigler's own plane, threading its way through a dense fog, snagged onto a guy wire supporting the 540-foot television tower. The impact sheared off one wing and sent the fuselage hurtling into a woods three quarters of a mile away, where it crashed and burned. The 59-year-old Republican ex-governor presumably was at the controls.”
It was believed that because of the fog Sigler might have been coming in for a landing at Kellogg Field, only three miles from the TV tower.
A historical marker stands in Hastings, where Sigler lived and worked for many years.
- Born in Schuyler, Nebraska, 1894.
- Received his law degree in 1918 from University of Detroit.
- Worked at Henry Ford’s Highland Park Plant while in law school.
- Moved to Hastings in 1922, and served three terms as Barry County Prosecutor.
- Ran unsuccessfully in 1928 for attorney general of Michigan.
- Served as Hastings city attorney for more than 10 years.
- Returned to private practice and moved to Battle Creek in 1943.
- Served as special prosecutor in a grand jury probe of legislative graft in 1943.
- Elected Governor of Michigan in 1946, but was defeated in 1948.
- In 1947, Governor Sigler 1947 designated W.K. Kellogg Airport as the base for the 172nd Fighter Squadron for the Michigan Air National Guard, a first in the state’s ANG history.
- Died in a plane crash west of Battle Creek on November 30, 1953.
Sigler's portrait in the Capitol was draped in black. Funeral attendees included the members of the Michigan Supreme Court and a State Bar official. Sigler was one of only two Michigan governors who served on the State Bar Board of Commissioners. Paul Morrison eulogized him, saying Sigler was “colorful in personality, full of imagination, eloquent in speech, influencing wherever he served." Sigler is buried in Barry County’s Riverside Cemetery.
Check out this YouTube Video of an old silent 16 millimeter film, which ironically shows him tinkering with (presumably his) small plane.
- Digging a hole to plant a tree
- Tinkering with (what I assume is) his airplane
- At the Francis School of Aviation
- Visiting a farm
- In downtown Lansing
- On the Capitol steps