2019 Lifetime Achievement Award
Charles B. Wheeler, Jr., MD, JD, is an icon in Kansas City for his nearly 70 years of service to the community. He is best known for eight years as mayor of Kansas City during the 1970s. It was a proud time for our city, as he oversaw the opening of Kansas City International Airport, the Truman Sports Complex, Crown Center, Kemper Arena and Worlds of Fun.
A third generation physician, Dr. Wheeler was born in Kansas City on August 10, 1926. He graduated from Westport High School in 1942. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Louisville while also serving in the U.S. Navy from 1944 to 1946. He obtained his medical degree from the University of Kansas in 1950. After an internship at Charity Hospital in New Orleans, he joined the U.S. Air Force and served until 1953 as a captain and flight surgeon to the original Thunderbirds, the Air Force aerial acrobatic team.
He completed his pathology residency at Saint Luke’s Hospital from 1953 to 1955. He also attended evening classes at the University of Kansas City Law School and earned his J.D. degree in 1959. In 1957, he became director of laboratories at Kansas City General Hospital. He founded Wheeler Medical Laboratories in 1963. He is board certified in pathological anatomy, clinical pathology and forensic pathology.
Dr. Wheeler’s first political victory occurred in 1964 when he was elected Jackson County coroner, serving in office from 1965 to 1967. He was elected to the Jackson County governing body (then called the County Court) in 1967, and was elected mayor of Kansas City in 1971. He served until 1979.
He returned to his private sector work with Wheeler Laboratories for two decades. He was elected to the Missouri Senate in 2002 and served one term.
His wife of nearly 70 years, Marjorie, passed away on July 3, 2019. They have five children, including son Graham Wheeler and daughter Marion Wheeler who currently reside in Kansas City, along with daughter Nina Yoakum of Orlando, Florida. Two other sons predeceased Mrs. Wheeler. There are six grandchildren.
Dr. Wheeler has been honored with the American Medical Association Benjamin Rush Award in 1971, the University of Missouri-Kansas City Lifetime Achievement Award in 1984 and the University of Kansas Medical Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1997.
The Kansas City downtown airport was rededicated as the Charles B. Wheeler, Jr., Downtown Airport in October 2002 in honor of his service to Kansas City.
Evidence of Dr. Wheeler’s continued commitment to helping others was displayed in January 2014 when he came to the aid of a young woman who had an epileptic seizure at a Saint Luke’s medical building. He checked her condition and calmed her until the seizure ended.