Though chosen as the city’s top elected official four times, Champion S. Chase was one of only two Omaha mayors to be removed from office. Educated as a teacher in his native New Hampshire, Mr. Chase later studied law in New York. He had a successful legal and political career in Wisconsin prior to service in the Civil War, during which he reached the rank of colonel.
Shortly after arriving in Omaha in 1867, he was appointed state attorney general. He was also elected to the board of trustees of Brownell Hall, then a school for young ladies. In 1869 he was appointed a regent of the state university.
After losing in his first bid for the mayor’s job, Mr. Chase was elected in 1874. As mayor, he favored extensive public improvements and recommended the establishment of a system of parks and boulevards. Commenting on the underside of the city during Mr. Chase’s tenure, author Ed F. Morearty in “Omaha Memories” said Omaha was run “free and easy, saloons were numerous and never closed, gambling was wide open” and “cheap, rough and tough theaters were numerous and limitless as to conduct.”
At the mayor’s impeachment trial on June 30, 1884, the city council voted unanimously to remove Mr. Chase from office for reasons of drunkenness, incompetence by reason of drunkenness, derangement of the nervous system and neglect of duty. The loss of his wife, Mary, to cancer in 1882 may have contributed to his ill health and financial difficulties. Council member Patrick Murphy completed his term.
Though stained by his removal from office, Mr. Chase carried with him a reputation as a brilliant orator and lifelong friend of the oppressed. One of his final civic positions was as president of the state humane society. A southwest Nebraska county (Chase) and a town within that county (Champion) are named for him. He died in 1898. His son, Clement, for 50 years published the society newspaper the Omaha Excelsior.