Thursday, January 3, 2013

Indiana's Political Heroes

My neighbor and City Councilman Geoff Paddock penned a book in 2008 entitled “Indiana Political Heroes”. After the events of this past weekend and the “fiscal cliff” votes, many Americans aren’t thinking of “heroes” and “politicians” as being remotely connected to one another. So we thought it might be interesting to delve into Geoff’s book to see what he had to say about:
          Birch Bayhsenator, speaker of the Indiana House and author of four Constitutional amendments, two of which became law: presidential succession and lowering the voting age from twenty-one to eighteen. The Equal Rights Amendment and the abolishment of the Electoral College failed to pass.

Bayh clashed with the Nixon administration over two Supreme Court nominees, Clement Haynsworth and G. Harold Carswell. In researching the work of both nominees, Bayh came to the conclusion “based on strong convictions that neither was qualified for a position on the Supreme Court”. The majority of his colleagues agreed and, while his status rose in the Senate, his positions on the nominees were not well liked in Indiana. 

“Bayh’s role in turning back the Supreme Court nominations caused his star to rise on the national political scene, and there was talk about his running for president in 1972. The day after the Carswell vote, Eric Severeid commented on a CBS news program that the Indiana senator could be a force to be reckoned with in 1972. He referred to Bayh as a Midwestern John Kennedy, encompassing intelligence, charm, and the ability to move people and accomplish great tasks.”

Bayh explored the possibility of a candidacy but his wife’s cancer diagnosis cancelled those plans. He remained in the Senate and with his growing opposition to Nixon’s stand on Vietnam, eventually made the President’s enemies list.

As his wife’s health improved, he again sought to become the Democratic candidate for president, but was defeated by the better funded campaign of Jimmy Carter. When Bayh’s wife died in 1979, he continued in public service but lost his seat in 1980 to Congressman Dan Quayle, who would go on to serve as George H.W. Bush’s vice president.

Bayh practiced law and worked on a number of public issues, including the promotion of Title IX, which provided equal access to sports in public schools for both boys and girls.

·        John Brademas—representative to the House from the Third District for 22 years, achieving the office of majority whip, the third highest position in the House, known for his efforts to provide federal aid to public education

Brademas was one of the “principal architects” of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, providing support for K-12 education as a part of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. As the first native-born American of Greek descent to be elected to Congress, he actively lobbied to cut off military aid to Turkey when that country threatened Cypress. “‘I recall my Greek born father telling me when I was a child, ‘We Greeks invented democracy; some of us should practice it,’” Brademas recalled.”

Brademas was instrumental in getting a contract to build military and post office vehicles when the Studebaker plant closed in Mishawaka. He was the author or involved in the writing of legislation that funded arts and humanities, museum services, libraries, alcohol and drug abuse education and services for the elderly. But he will be remembered most for his efforts that resulted in Title I programs on behalf of K-12 education for America’s children as well as opportunities through other funding for medical, dental and vocational education for those interested in pursuing further degrees. His work ultimately led to a massive commitment on the part of the Federal government for the education of all American children.

“While making a campaign appearance for Democratic candidates in South Bend in September of 2006, Brademas made a stark observation about the former body where he once served. He said Congress had changed for the worse since his days in the Capitol. ‘What is particularly striking to me is the lack of civility, of comity, of respect for different views that now characterizes the nation’s capital,’ he said. When asked about his philosophy towards government, Brademas said he subscribed to theologian Reinhold Neibuhr’s famous quotation, ‘Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible; but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.’”

·        R. Vance Hartke—first Democrat to be elected US Senator from Indiana for three terms; broke with Lyndon Johnson over the Vietnam War; defeated in his last election by Richard Lugar

Hartke is said to have changed the face of Indiana politics with his non-stop style of campaigning. After being sworn in as Senator, he became close friends with John Kennedy, Johnson and Hubert Humphrey among others and gained a seat on the Finance and Commerce committees. Under Kennedy, he came out in favor of civil rights legislation and the Peace Corps. As a strong backer of Johnson’s Great Society, he supported Medicare and Medicaid. He also served on the Committee on Aging and in 1971 was named chair of the Veteran’s Affairs Committee.

But his study of the conflict in Vietnam eventually led him to question Johnson’s stance on the war. “Johnson, who had enjoyed a very close friendship with the senator, apparently referred to him as a ‘two bit mayor from a two bit town’. (Hartke had been mayor of Evansville at one time.) Hartke reportedly replied he did not care what the president felt about him, but Evansville was not a two-bit town.”

Hartke’s stance eventually led to his defeat by Richard Lugar. “Hartke recalled that his break with Johnson hurt him back home and some Democrats never forgave him for it. But he took pleasure in referring to himself as ‘the great dove’ and one of the first political leaders of the United States to forcibly speak out against a war that divided a country for more than two decades.”

Hartke was once asked about his political philosophy and his role as a Senator. “’A Senator must represent his constituents to the best of his ability, and be mindful of their points of view. But he can never violate his conscience and still be true to the task for which he was elected. Sometimes following conscience may put you in a lonesome minority, but if you have the courage of your convictions, there is nothing else you can do. What else can one do in good conscience but to fight for his beliefs? I believe that when you voters elected me, you expected me to vote my conscience.’”

·        Richard Hatcher—battled corruption in the city administration of Gary, Indiana, becoming a five-time mayor of the city

Hatcher was the first African-American mayor of Gary and one of the first black United States mayors of a major industrial city in the north. One of 13 children, he was a star student and became involved with civil rights while in college at IU. After graduating from law school, he became deputy prosecutor in Crown Point and began looking at a career in politics. His focus changed from the state level to local politics and he was elected to an at-large seat on the city council. Thus began his work to integrate fire and police, demonstrate against housing discrimination and keep the Human Relations Commission operating at its full capacity.

In 1967, he was persuaded to run for mayor but encountered intense opposition from both parties when he could not be bribed and would not knuckle under to those already in power. As those opposed to his possible election turned increasingly to corrupt practices, one person finally went to the FBI and charges were brought against Mayor Krupa and many of the organizers of the effort to steal the election from Hatcher. The National Guard was called in to supervise the election and Hatcher was declared the winner. But “one political observer of the city election stated that a majority of individuals voted ‘white, not Republican or Democrat.’” Although Hatcher received more than 95 percent of the black vote, only a little more than 10 percent of whites voted for him. 

But his “appeal to moderate and liberal whites came from his campaign statements to represent the entire city and to make reforms in government that would help everyone. He had spoken forcefully against graft, gambling, prostitution and unscrupulous politicians, and the voters listened and responded.”

Hatcher worked hard to improve the nation’s image of Gary by forcing landlords to improve properties, constructing new low-income housing, beginning an effort to curb air pollution from Gary’s many steel mills, and positioning Gary as a convention center for northwest Indiana. He hosted a National Black Political Convention that attracted Jesse Jackson and Coretta Scott King and landed the Miss Black America Pageant one year. During his time in office, his administration secured more than $500 million for revitalization and neighborhood housing projects.

But for his many successes, Hatcher had as many failures and by the 1980s Gary was facing many challenges highlighted by its being named “America’s Murder Capital” in 1986. He lost the 1987 primary to Thomas Barnes, once a supporter. But he is still remembered as one of Gary’s finest leaders. Former Congresswoman Katie Hall, Gary’s deputy mayor in the mid-1970s, has said that Hatcher “‘didn’t take us down to disgrace and shame. He lifted us. We could look up and say, yes we can. It can be done.’”

·        William Hudnut—mayor of Indianapolis for sixteen years, spearheading a successful drive to revitalize the state’s capital city

If you’re a football fan, then you’ve probably heard of William Hudnut. In 1984 he was instrumental in getting the Baltimore Colts to move to Indianapolis and the rest, as they say, is history. 

Hudnut was a Presbyterian minister who had an interest in politics. He served one term in the US House, sponsoring seventeen bills in 1973 and 1974 but losing his seat to its former holder, Andrew Jacobs, after one-term. He then ran for mayor and succeeded Richard Lugar in the city’s top spot.
He credited the vision of his two immediate predecessors Lugar and John Barton with beginning the revitalization of Indianapolis with a strong public-private cooperative effort. Until the late 1960s, Indianapolis had been racially segregated to the extent that parts of the city were not open to African Americans and the conservatism of leaders led them to refuse federal aid until the late 1960s.
Hudnut inherited a consolidated city-county government in its early stages and set about making it successful. He was a vocal and participatory ally of those working on affirmative action within city offices, especially fire and police. He created the Indianapolis Project to raise the city’s profile across the United States and eventually Indianapolis gained the title of amateur sports capital of the United States.

“Former Fort Wayne mayor Paul Helmke viewed his colleague as a mentor when he took office in 1988. ‘Bill Hudnut is an example of what a mayor should be,’ said Helmke. ‘He took responsibility for becoming the head cheerleader for Indianapolis, and he had the personality and charisma to inspire people. He was an inspiration to me when I became mayor because of his great insight to what a city could be and his pragmatic and problem-solving abilities.’”

·        Richard Ristine—Republican lieutenant governor under Democrat Matt Welsh, broke the tie in the state senate to establish the state sales tax and raise income taxes

Although members of different political parties, Ristine and Welsh were able to merge their platforms to provide for improvements vastly needed in the state including road paving, bridges, additional public safety officers and new schools. Together with Republican House Speaker Richard Guthrie and Democratic House Minority Leader Birch Bayh, they set about making these changes happen despite the state’s finances being in poor shape.

Welsh proposed tax increases in 1963, when the party makeup of the state House and Senate was decidedly Republican. On March 11, 1963, after a number of alternatives had been discussed and none approved, the legislature adjourned. But a joint session opened the next day and discussion continued with no compromise and no resolution to the problem of needed revenue. By April 17, however, a “2-2-2 Plan” had emerged which offered the concept of a 2 percent retail sales tax with no exemptions, a 2 percent net income tax on individuals and a 2 percent net income tax on corporations. Although there was something in it for everyone, not all legislators wanted to be associated with increasing taxes.

It was thought that Ristine would run for the governor’s office in 1964 when Welsh stepped down and that his support of a tax increase would damage his reputation with the Republican Party. But when it came time to break a tie in the Senate, Ristine did support the tax increase and voted for it.

“ (Allan) Bloom remembered Ristine saying just after this action that he had just lost the race for governor. (Otto) Bonahoom said there was no doubt many in the chamber had just seen an unlikely event—a public servant falling on his sword for the good of the people. (Bob)Peterson said Ristine’s vote ‘no doubt sunk his political career.’”

Ristine did run for governor, and although his actions helped to leave the state in better financial shape than when he entered office, he lost the election and retired from politics, devoting his time to worthy causes that would benefit Indiana.

·        J. Edward Roush—gerrymandered district change did not stop this environmentalist from eventually helping to create three Indiana reservoirs for flood protection as well as recreation

“Two words that seldom appear together are ‘politician’ and ‘honest’. In the 1960s and 1970s, however, Indiana congressman J. Edward Roush earned the moniker Honest Ed Roush. Throughout the Fifth Congressional District in north-central Indiana, Roush was regarded as a man of his word and a public servant who established a close bond with his constituents. No bribes or scandals were ever associated with Roush, elected to Congress five times between 1958 and 1966…”
Roush was a moderate who backed the domestic legislation of Kennedy and Johnson and is most noted for his support of the school lunch program, federal aid to elementary and secondary education and the space program.

In 1968, redistricting by the Indiana General Assembly (typically redistricting is done after a census but the General Assembly failed to do this in 1961) changed Roush’s district from the fifth to the fourth and he became the challenger of incumbent E. Ross Adair. “Adair was an institution in Fort Wayne and northeastern Indiana” and had never had much competition for his seat. In addition, Adair was a ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee.

Although the men were friendly, there were a multitude of differences in their views during that contentious time in our history. 

“…Roush sensed that times were changing and minds were evolving. He believed that opposing the war, supporting sensible gun control, voting for civil rights legislation, and taking big business and agriculture interests to task for polluting were right stands to take…” But his views led to his defeat.
In 1970, he ran again for office against Adair with a better managed and better funded campaign. This time he won. He went on to win again against Bloom and Walter Helmke. But his political career came to an end the year he was challenged by Dan Quayle.

“During his political career, Roush played more than just a passing role in the education of a people and the governing of a nation. He worked at the forefront of issues to improve education, health care, and job training. Perhaps his greatest legacy was his sponsorship of numerous pieces of legislation to preserve natural resources, fight pollution, fund flood control projects, and enact the 911 emergency telephone system across the United States.”

·        William Ruckelshaus—member of the Indiana house, deputy attorney general in the Nixon administration; fired for refusing to be a part of Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox’s firing; director of the EPA under Reagan

Ruckelshaus served one term in the Indiana House prior to moving to Washington, serving as an Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Division from 1969-70, first director of the EPA from 1970 to 1973, acting director of the FBI in early 1973, and finally Deputy Attorney General under Elliot Richardson. Ruckelshaus had achieved national attention by almost unseating Senator Birch Bayh in 1968. Then Attorney General John Mitchell brought a number of defeated Republican candidates into the Nixon administration.

When L. Patrick Gray resigned as director of the FBI at the beginning of Watergate, President Nixon appointed Ruckelshaus to the office. But Nixon soon needed new blood in the Justice Department to restore credibility and so appointed then Secretary of Defense Elliot Richardson to the post of Attorney General. Ruckelshaus transferred to the AG’s office from the FBI.

“The president regarded Ruckelshaus as a ‘Mr. Clean’ and someone not only bright but also well respected. For his part, Ruckelshaus had served Nixon in several capacities but began to lose faith in the president while acting director of the FBI in the spring of 1973. ….

“…Ruckelshaus saw the Watergate break in as ‘trivial but what happened afterwards was not trivial, it was profound.’”

Ruckelshaus was tapped to vet vice-presidential appointee Gerald Ford after the resignation of Spiro Agnew. Upon his return from Michigan to Washington, he learned that Nixon had asked AG Richardson to fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Richardson refused and resigned. Ruckelshaus was then approached by Chief of Staff Alexander Haig to perform the firing. Ruckelshaus also refused.

“Ruckelshaus later recalled, ‘I do not believe the decision to resign was a difficult one. When you accept a presidential appointment you must remind yourself there are lines over which you will not step. The line for me was considerably behind where I would have been standing had I fired Cox. In this case, the line was bright and the decision was simple.’”

All quotes are from Paddock’s book, “Indiana Political Heroes”, copyright 2008 Indiana Historical Society Press. The work is available in the History Center’s gift shop.

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