Who Was Michael Dowling?

Michael Dowling was an educator and legislator who succeeded in having the first bill passed providing state aid for handicapped children in 1919. Being handicapped himself, Mr. Dowling realized the importance of equal access to education for all people. 

The land for Dowling School was actually donated in 1920 by William Henry Eustis, a former Minneapolis mayor and realtor. 

From a Sept. 2002 article in the Star Tribune:

And Michael Dowling went from school principal, bank president and mayor of Olivia to speaker of the Minnesota House, a national Republican leader and organizer of the Philippines' educational system -- all despite having lost both legs, his left arm and the fingers of his right hand in an 1880 snowstorm when he was 14.

As a young man, Dowling went to the county welfare board and promised never to be a ward of the state if the county would provide him with artificial limbs and send him to college. After World War I, he traveled to military hospitals to talk with veterans who had lost limbs, urging them not to think their lives were over.

In "The Things We Know Best," the 1976 local history edited by Minnesota poet Joe Paddock, a woman who knew Dowling said he laughed off his handicaps. His favorite story was about the Minneapolis bellhop who, at his request, helped him get ready for bed one night. "Take off my leg," Dowling said, and the bellhop did. Then the other leg, then the arm. "Now, take my head off," he said, and the frantic bellhop ran from the room.

Click here to see a silent film about Michael Dowling.  This film, digitized by the Minnesota Historical Society, was first shown at a meeting of the American Medical Association in 1918.

Dowling Rich History