Upon his return from military service in World War Two, Governor Bowen started a private medical practice in Bremen, and was first elected to public office in 1952 as Marshall County Coroner. A Republican, he served as Indiana's 44th Governor from 1973 to 1981, and was the state's first Governor since 1851 to serve two consecutive terms in office. Governor Pence says Governor Bowen advanced historic improvements to Indiana's state park and recreation system, helping to create five new state parks.
President Ronald Reagan nominated him to be the Secretary of Health and Human Services and Secretary Bowen would lead that government agency until January 20, 1989, when President Reagan left office. Bowen eventually returned to Bremen.