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Friday, November 4, 2011

Gratefully Remembering Howard

During the years I lived in Kalamazoo, our Congressional district’s dominant religious force was Dutch Reform, politics were conservative, and Big Business was very much the direction of the place and the times. And yet, time and again, we managed to elect Representative Howard Wolpe to Congress, a liberal Jewish academic. Everyone loved Howard. Everyone referred to him by his first name. There must have been plenty of Republicans who voted for him, too, since he was not only elected but in office 14 years. If the district lines hadn’t been redrawn, I have no doubt he would have remained our Congressman. In fact, he might have, anyway, except that he didn’t want to run against another incumbent from his own party.

That was Howard: honest, decent, principled—and beloved. Now I learn that he died on Tuesday. That is very sad news.

Howard was not a grandstander, but not someone who would back down, either. He stood up to Ronald Reagan, and his influence reached far from Kalamazoo. It was an honor and a source of pride to be represented by such a human being.

P.S. 11/5 A friend sent me this link about a letter Howard Wolpe, before his death, wrote to his successor.

16 comments:

dmarks said...

I first heard of him when he did a fundraiser that was headlined by the B. J. Hunnicutt actor from M*A*S*H.

Coincidentally, I just finished my own post about a couple of West Michigan politicians.

dmarks said...

And it looks like "Anishinaabekwe" blog is gone? Can you get to it?

P. J. Grath said...

Anishinaabekwe said she would be taking a blogging hiatus.

I liked reading about the Michigan political characters, especially in connection to Spikehorn!

Dawn said...

When I told my husband I thought it odd that the front page of our paper featured a dog named Petey that had made it home after ending up miles and miles away v.s. the death of Howard Wolpe...he said "Howard WHO?" And I felt sad, because I remembered Mr. Wolpe as a principled politician, and we have so few of those...but because he wasn't flashy he didn't get noticed,even by my political junky husband.

P. J. Grath said...

I'm glad you remember him, Dawn. You're right--he was not at all flashy. Nor was he tricky. A mensch! I do not at all understand why his passing was not treated as important news IN MICHIGAN, his home state.

A friend who sends his comments to me by e-mail said, "Strange to say, I think I managed one of his first academic publications, a short but timely review that appeared in one of MSU's Africana oriented periodicals, where I was in charge of book reviews ( during my WSU years in Detroit). I followed his later career in politics . . . a rare blend of academic knowledge and political skills, though
the major re-districting of some 20 years ago, gerrmanderered his district away."

First we lost him from our district, and now we have lost him altogether. It is a big loss.

dmarks said...

Gerrymandering is a major problem, and it happens every time.

Particularly pernicious is the way racists in both parties try to gerrymander in order to get more representives of preferred colors or to make sure voters of non-preferred colors votes are dilluted.

Surely there is an objective way to do this.

P. J. Grath said...

I feel about gerrymandering the same way I feel about jury stacking--er, "selection."

Kathy said...

I have not heard of him. Your tribute to him makes me wish he was our congressman, too.

P. J. Grath said...

Clearly someone needs to write a biography of Howard Wolpe.

P. J. Grath said...

Clearly someone needs to write a biography of Howard Wolpe.

Gerry said...

Phil Hart, Howard Wolpe, Bill Brodhead--Michigan did a good job back in the day. Sometimes we still do. Sometimes . . . not.

P. J. Grath said...

Good reminders, Gerry. I have a lot of respect for Carl Levin, too.

P. J. Grath said...

And now about Governor Milliken? He was a good one, too.

dmarks said...

I don't have much respect for Carl Levin, from having tried to deal with him, and friends who have tried to deal with him, and have gotten the brush-off. Not over partisan stuff, but over the "contact your senator" matters. He's a walking case for term limits, I think.

Bart Stupak, now there was someone who was responsive.

Dawn said...

I loved Gov Milliken. Grew up with him as govenor...saw him once on Mackinaw Island long after he left office.

P. J. Grath said...

Sorry your experience with Senator Levin was negative, dmarks. I contacted his office not long ago and had a fairly timely response. In fact, it was on a matter of highway safety that Dawn (who commented below you) brought to my attention. Dawn, I've run into Governor Milliken a couple of times in Traverse City, once at a grocery store, once at an office supply store. His friendly manner always seems very neighborly.