M. George Downs
Born: June 12, 1928
Murdeth George Downs was born on a couch in his parent’s home
and given the moniker “Murdeth” after an uncle, but
he was more often referred to as “Tut” by his friends.
He attended Longfellow Elementary and West Junior prior to Denfeld,
where he graduated in 1946. He later attended the Area Vocational
Technical School and University of Minnesota Duluth.
Downs grew up during the Depression and knows well how many families
had to make do with little or do without, but his family somehow
survived. Working the family garden was a necessity and he remembers
playing in the streets with make-do equipment and swimming in the
dammed up creek for fun.
He was employed by the Duluth, Missabe and Iron
Range Railway for 38 years, beginning as a laborer and retiring
as assistant manager of the ore docks and storage facilities operations.
He was also a business agent for the International Brotherhood of
Electrical Workers. He almost became an international representative
for the IBEW in Chicago, but came back to Duluth.
After church one Sunday in 1966, Tom Bell II asked
him to run for the school board. He did, but lost as Murdeth George
Downs. Going “Ivy League,” as he says, he was elected
in 1967 as “M. George Downs” and served 10 years, five
as chairman. He had to work on the opposite side of negotiations
than he had as a union rep. Among his accomplishments were improvements
to Morgan Park School, including the swimming pool.
After retiring from the railroad he looked for
a new political challenge and ran for the fifth-district Duluth
City Council seat. He won and served 12 years.
In 1986 his briefcase was mistaken for a bomb
when he left it in the Duluth Civic Center. It was blown up by police.
Downs is an original member of the Duluth Economic
Development Authority, which works to attract and improve businesses
like Northwest Airlines, Cirrus Design, Spirit Valley Shopping Center,
United Health Care, the Duluth Paper Mill (now owned by NewPage),
a recycling facility in West Duluth, Stoneridge Shopping Mall, renovations
to the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, the Canal Park district,
and I-35 freeway extension. He is known for using the West Duluth
Perkins as his “office” and had the reputation as someone
a constituent could communicate with and get an answer.
Downs was co-chair of the committee to rebuild
Public Schools’ Stadium and also co-chair of the committee
to push for the new Amsoil Arena. He has a reputation as a negotiator,
a conciliator and a compromiser who gets results.
He has been married to wife Barbara since 1952.
They have two sons, George and Peter, and several grandchildren.
He is active in the Euclid Masonic Temple, the Scottish Rite, the
Shrine, and Royal Arch Masons and Asbury Methodist Church.
of Fame Members