For more than four decades, Tom Sawyer was a prominent Democratic Party figure in Ohio. He would serve in public offices on city, state, and federal levels. Sawyer would be widely viewed as a senior statesman, though his career also included controversies.

He came to national attention for his investigation into the 1990 United States Census. But before that, while in local politics, he was arrested for driving under the influence. Sawyer also drew the ire of many for his support of the North American Free Trade Agreement. So much so that it may have cost him an election.

But more recently, the emphasis seems to be on constituents' fonder memories of him.

Has passed away

Tom Sawyer has died at 77, the Akron Beacon Journal and WKYC report. Current Akron, Ohio Mayor Dan Horrigan made the announcement on May 23, 2023. Although he did not specify the precise date of his passing. The cause of death was also not immediately announced to the public. But Sawyer's health had evidently been in a state of decline for quite some time.

Horrigan said Sawyer "exemplified the importance of public service and leadership." One-time political rival and later friend Tim Ryan called him "a good and decent man." Current Republican Ohio Governor Mike DeWine also issued a statement of mourning.

DeWine and Sawyer had served together in the United States House of Representatives.

Sawyer was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1986. Democratic incumbent John F. Seiberling was not running for re-election. The seat in question was from the 14th District of Ohio. Sawyer would be re-elected seven times from the district.

Among his committee assignments was serving on what was then the House Committee on the Post Office and Civil Service. Sawyer would chair its Subcommittee on Census and Population. In that role, he would come to the conclusion that the 1990 Census severely miscalculated the African American population.

In 2002, re-districting moved Sawyer to Ohio's 17th District.

He would be defeated in an upset in the Democratic primary by State Senator Tim Ryan. The candidate's differing stances on NAFTA were considered the decisive issue.

Four years later, Sawyer made another try at a seat in Congress. He ran in the Democratic primary in the 13th District. Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown was not running, instead launching a successful campaign for the United States Senate. Where he now chairs the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee. Sawyer lost the nomination to State Representative Betty Sutton, who would win the general election.

He was a state legislator and mayor of Akron

Tom Sawyer was a native of Akron. There, he would graduate from John R. Buchtel High School.

He followed that up with a pair of degrees from the University of Akron. Before going into politics, Sawyer worked as an English teacher.

1976, Sawyer was elected to the first of three terms in the Ohio House of Representatives. Seven years later, he was elected mayor of Akron over Republican incumbent Roy Ray in a surprise result.

After leaving Congress, Sawyer was appointed to the Ohio Senate in 2007 by Governor Ted Strickland. Kim Zurz, the seat's previous occupant, had been named to Strickland's cabinet. Sawyer was elected to a full term in 2008 and re-elected in 2012. Along the way, he became the ranking member of the Education and Finance Committees. State law barred Sawyer from running for another term. Former Democratic State Representative Vernon Sykes would succeed him.