[Congressional Record Volume 143, Number 105 (Wednesday, July 23, 1997)]
[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E1487-E1489]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                A TRIBUTE TO THE LATE HON. HAMILTON FISH

                                 ______
                                 

                        HON. BENJAMIN A. GILMAN

                              of new york

                    in the house of representatives

                        Wednesday, July 23, 1997

  Mr. GILMAN. Mr. Speaker, 1 year ago today marked the passing of one 
of our outstanding Members of Congress.
  Congressman Ham Fish was part of a disappearing breed--an individual 
dedicated to public service for no purpose other than helping others. 
Ham was devoted to creating a better nation for all of us.

[[Page E1488]]

  During his congressional career, Hamilton Fish became the ranking 
Republican on the Committee on the Judiciary. It was in this capacity 
that he earned a nationwide reputation as a leading proponent of civil 
rights for all Americans. He was the champion of our minorities and the 
downtrodden.
  Ham Fish was also a member of the Select Committee on Children, Youth 
and Families.
  Ham Fish's experiences on these panels exposed him to school 
administrators, teachers, parents, criminal justice officials, and 
students who alerted him to the escalating levels of violence in and 
around our schools. In his largely suburban and rural Hudson Valley, NY 
congressional district and in other areas of the country, Congressman 
Fish recognized a steady decline in safe and secure environments in 
which young people could learn, free from fear of violence and crime.
  During the development of the crime bill of 1992, Congressman Fish 
utilized his practical experience to propose funding for an institute, 
comprising experts in education, health care, and juvenile justice 
which would determine effective antidotes and intervention strategies 
that would be made available nationally to schools and communities in 
crisis.
  Although not accomplished before he left public office at the end of 
the 103d Congress, Hamilton Fish continued his advocacy for this 
institute, actively working on its behalf with his former colleagues up 
until a week before his death.
  Bipartisan congressional support for his dream was achieved with 
passage of the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 1997. The U.S. Department 
of Justice has now begun funding the institute.
  The institute has now been renamed ``The Hamilton Fish National 
Institute on School and Community Violence'' in recognition of much 
that characterized the man and the Congressman: total commitment to 
country, family, the young, as well as integrity, dialog, and 
reconciliation.
  The Hamilton Fish National Institute on School and Community Violence 
is a living memorial to an outstanding legislator and remarkable 
individual whose career is an example to us all.
  Mr. Speaker, two individuals have eloquently captured the essence of 
Ham Fish. The first was Ralph G. Neas, a longtime family friend who 
delivered the eulogy at St. Albans Chapel here in Washington a year ago 
next week. The second was William L. Taylor, who spoke a few words of 
tribute at the Hamilton Fish Library in Garrison, NY, earlier this 
year. I request that both of these tributes be inserted in the 
Congressional Record at this point:

   Remarks of Ralph G. Neas at the Memorial Service for Congressman 
  Hamilton Fish. Jr.--St. Albans Chapel, Washington, DC, July 30, 1996

       Mary Ann, Hamilton, Alexa, Nicholas, Peter, others in the 
     Fish family, Speaker Gingrich, Members of Congress, and 
     distinguished guests, I am profoundly grateful and deeply 
     honored to have this opportunity to help celebrate the 
     extraordinary life and legislative career of Congressman 
     Hamilton Fish, Jr.
       As the Executive Director of the Leadership Conference on 
     Civil Rights, the legislative arm of the civil rights 
     movement, I had the privilege of working with Ham Fish on 
     nearly two dozen legislative campaigns between 1981 and 1995. 
     Hamilton Fish was a civil rights champion, a mentor, and a 
     close friend.
       During the past week, the press coverage of Ham's thirteen 
     terms in Congress has accurately characterized his personal 
     integrity, his principled leadership, and his courageous 
     commitment to equal opportunity for all Americans.
       But, frankly, what I have read does not capture the sheer 
     magnitude of Ham Fish's legislative accomplishments or, very 
     importantly, the manner in which he achieved them. For a few 
     minutes, I would like to share with you my perspective on 
     this great man.
       First, let us look at Ham Fish's civil rights record. It 
     was legendary in its scope and breadth. Propelled by an 
     awesome sense of justice and a determination not to rest 
     until he had completed his mission. Ham Fish played an 
     important role in virtually every civil rights law enacted 
     over the past two and a half decades.
       Even during the Reagan and Bush presidencies, when Ham 
     often faced formidable odds, he helped shepherd through 
     Congress nearly a score of civil rights laws. Indeed, during 
     this remarkable era, Ham, along with Don Edwards, his 
     Democratic partner in guarding the Constitution, actually 
     strengthened all the major civil rights statutes.
       To sum up all these legislative successes would take up 
     most of the morning. But I would like to mention specifically 
     five landmark laws where Ham Fish was either the House author 
     or the lead Republican sponsor. And, with respect to several 
     of them, Ham was the legislator who fashioned the bipartisan 
     compromise that catapulted the bill toward passage.
       The 1982 Voting Rights Act Extension. Extended the Voting 
     Rights Act for twenty-five years, overturned an adverse 
     Supreme Court decision, and extended for ten years bilingual 
     ballot assistance for language minorities.
       The Civil Rights Restoration Act (1988). Overturned the 
     notorious 1984 Grove City Supreme Court decision and once 
     again made it illegal to use federal funds to discriminate 
     against women, minorities, persons with disabilities, and 
     older Americans.
       The Fair Housing Act Amendments of 1988. Provided at long 
     last an effective enforcement mechanism for the 1968 Fair 
     Housing Act. The 1988 Amendments also prohibited 
     discrimination in housing against families with children and 
     people with disabilities for the first time.
       The Civil Rights Act of 1991. Overturned eight Supreme 
     Court decisions that had dramatically weakened our nation's 
     equal employment opportunity laws. And provides, for the 
     first time, monetary damages for women and persons with 
     disabilities who are victims of intentional discrimination.
       The Americans with Disabilities Act (1990). Prohibits 
     discrimination against 49 million Americans with disabilities 
     in employment, public accommodations, communications and 
     transportation.
       These historic civil rights laws have benefitted, and will 
     continue to benefit, millions of Americans. And let me state 
     this as unequivocally as possible: these laws would not have 
     been enacted without Congressman Hamilton Fish. His 
     leadership during the most challenging of times was 
     absolutely indispensable.
       But it was not just the quantity and quality of these civil 
     rights laws, or the legislative skills that made them 
     possible, that made Hamilton Fish so special. In fact, his 
     other attributes are what truly set him apart, providing 
     standards of leadership that should serve as a model for 
     everyone.
       First, Ham Fish always understood thoroughly the need for 
     bipartisanship. He knew how to build coalitions and forge a 
     consensus. He knew the art of the timely compromise, the good 
     compromise made at the right time that will produce the 
     requisite number of votes, either a simple majority or a 
     super majority, that is needed to enact a law.
       The numerical results of the legislative victories I cited 
     previously ample demonstrate this commitment to 
     bipartisanship. The average final passage vote on these five 
     laws was 90 percent of both Houses of Congress. Thanks to Ham 
     Fish and his allies, the past decade and a half has been, 
     legislatively, a bipartisan reaffirmation of civil rights 
     laws and remedies.
       Second, while Ham Fish was passionate in his beliefs, 
     civility characterized his every action. He treated everyone 
     with dignity. Few in Washington have matched his ability to 
     command both the respect and the love of his peers. Time and 
     again he proved that a nice guy can finish first.
       Third, Ham Fish revered the institution in which he served. 
     He enjoyed immensely being a member of the House of 
     Representatives and always strove to make the House work. And 
     while the House held his primary allegiance, he also 
     respected the other institutions that comprise the federal 
     government.
       When the need arose, Ham Fish could be a fierce partisan. 
     But he knew that bipartisan cooperation, not partisan 
     confrontation, must ultimately prevail if government is to 
     function at all.
       Finally, and perhaps most significantly, Ham Fish was 
     courageous. Whether it was voting to impeach a President of 
     his own party or standing firm on civil rights legislation, 
     Ham Fish did what he believed to be fair and just.
       Last week, Congressman Maurice Hinchey summarized 
     eloquently how Ham carefully balanced loyalty and 
     independence in order to further the national interest. He 
     stated:
       ``Ham was very proud to be called a loyal Republican, but 
     he knew that loyalty does not mean surrender of one's own 
     judgment and temperament . . . He believed that he served his 
     party best when he served his country best, and that he 
     served the country best by bringing the best of his own mind 
     and heart to every issue he addressed.''
       After he retired from the House, Ham Fish continued to work 
     on behalf of his favorite issues. Just last month the two of 
     us visited Senator Nancy Kassebaum and Congressman Amo 
     Houghton lobbying on behalf of affirmative action and legal 
     services.
       As you can tell by now, I cherished my friendship with Ham. 
     He was always there to help, performing any task with 
     graceful enthusiasm. I will miss so much his warm smile, his 
     mischievous sense of humor, and his calm and gentle presence.
       As I sat praying at St. Albans chapel this morning, I 
     thanked God for allowing Katy and me the opportunity to get 
     to know Ham. And I was thankful that we all had the benefit 
     of Ham's leadership at critical moments during our nation's 
     past quarter of a century. As we leave the chapel shortly, 
     let us all pray that God will bless America with a few more 
     Ham Fishes.
                                                                    ____


   Tribute to the Late Hamilton Fish--Garrison, N.Y., April 27, 1997

                         (By William L. Taylor)

       It is truly a great honor and privilege for me to be asked 
     to say a few words of tribute to the memory of Rep. Hamilton 
     Fish.
       I have worked as a lawyer in the field of civil rights for 
     more than 40 years, starting as an attorney on the staff of 
     Thurgood Marshall in 1954. During that time I have 
     established my own private hall of fame for people

[[Page E1489]]

     who have made important contributions to providing 
     opportunity to millions of citizens who have suffered 
     discrimination. It is not a very large hall of fame and 
     several of those in it are people whose names or 
     contributions are not well known to the American people, 
     because they did not seek to draw public attention to 
     themselves or seek acclaim for their work.
       One of those people is Judge Robert L. Carter who was 
     Thurgood Marshall's chief deputy in bringing the case of 
     Brown v. Board of Education and other landmark cases that 
     started the legal revolution in civil rights and then went on 
     to a distinguished career as a federal judge in New York. Bob 
     Carter was my first boss at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. He 
     is celebrating his 80th birthday at an event in New York City 
     that starts in a few minutes and that is the reason I can't 
     stay with you this evening.
       Another of the people in my hall of fame is Ham Fish. 
     Although I had met him before, my first substantial encounter 
     with Ham Fish came under somewhat dramatic circumstances in 
     1981. I was working with the Leadership Conference on Civil 
     Rights in seeking a reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act 
     of 1965 which many people think is the most effective piece 
     of civil rights legislation passed in this century. But in 
     1981 we were in a tough fight because many in Congress 
     thought the time had come to end the special provisions of 
     the Voting Rights Act. An agreement that had been made by 
     civil rights forces with another Republican member of 
     Congress fell apart just as the House Judiciary Committee was 
     to meet to consider the bill. Mr. Fish was a senior member of 
     the committee and a supporter of the extension of the Voting 
     Rights Act, but he had not been intimately involved with the 
     legislation. I spent all night with other civil rights 
     lawyers redrafting the bill and Rep. Don Edwards arranged for 
     me to see Mr. Fish at 10 am, just before the Committee was 
     scheduled to meet.
       I approached the meeting with some trepidation. What would 
     Rep. Fish think about our coming to him at the last moment? 
     Would he be able to master the details of a complicated piece 
     of legislation in so short a time and serve as its chief 
     Republican spokesman?
       In his book Giantkillers, Mike Pertschuk describes what 
     happened:
       ``Taylor, on three hours sleep, briefed Fish just 15 
     minutes before the Committee meeting. Fish, a quick study, 
     quickly grasped the essential elements and later deftly 
     defended the bill in committee as if he had spent all night 
     writing it.''
       The legislation passed and Fish proved ``an eloquent 
     advocate.''
       Afterwards, I thought back on how remarkable that meeting 
     had been. The typical member of Congress of whatever 
     political persuasion would have spent at least some time 
     berating me for coming to him only when we were in dire 
     straits (and would have had some justification for saying 
     so). Ham Fish didn't waste any time massaging his ego. 
     Instead, he asked a few incisive questions about the bill 
     until he was satisfied he could support it and serve as its 
     spokesman. He knew that there was an important job in 
     fighting voting discrimination still to be done and he kept 
     his eye on the ball.
       That first meeting in many ways typified the relationship 
     we came to enjoy over more than a dozen years. During those 
     years, Ham Fish was the Republican leader in the House 
     responsible for passing several pieces of landmark civil 
     rights legislation--including the Civil Rights Restoration 
     Act of 1988, the Fair Housing Amendments of 1988, the 
     Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Civil Rights 
     Act of 1991. It is fair to say that those laws have 
     benefitted millions of people--people of color, women, 
     disabled people, older people. The laws did not give people 
     special favors or breaks; rather they enable them to remove 
     barriers to achieving their potential and to their ability to 
     live in dignity. And though few may know his name, all of 
     these millions owe a debt to Ham Fish for his leadership in 
     passing these laws. Indeed, all of us who have led advantaged 
     lives owe Ham a debt for enabling us to live in a society 
     that is fairer, more just, less marked by ugly prejudice than 
     the world inhabited by our forebears.
       But while I think about these great achievements, I also 
     think about the personal qualities of Ham Fish. He had both a 
     first rate mind and traits of modesty and humility. That is a 
     rare enough combination in the general population and it is 
     almost unheard of among politicians. Often, in his office or 
     in a committee meeting or on the floor of the House, someone 
     would put forth a proposition that would not bear scrutiny. 
     Instead of challenging the person aggressively, Ham would get 
     a twinkle in his eye and a slight hint of a smile and would 
     then ask in gentle, matter-of-fact tones a question or two 
     that would expose the flaws in the speaker's argument. And 
     that was his manner with people from all parts of the 
     political spectrum. I sometimes brought lawyers from our 
     civil rights coalition into his office who were very bright 
     people, but who may have been off on a tangent that was not 
     realistic or sensible. Ham brought them back to earth. In 
     fact, although I don't like to admit it, I may have been a 
     victim of that twinkle and amused smile once or twice myself.
       The other legislative leader who comes to mind whose manner 
     was similar was Phil Hart from Michigan--another member of my 
     private hall of fame. Both he and Ham Fish genuinely deserve 
     the appellation used so freely in the Congress--gentleman.
       This is not to say that Ham Fish was modest to the point of 
     self-abasement. He took a quiet pride in his work on civil 
     rights. I remember how touched he was when the NAACP decided 
     to honor him for his leadership. He shared a draft of his 
     acceptance speech with a couple of us because he wanted to be 
     sure that he was conveying adequately how important the cause 
     was and how appreciative he was of the honor.
       Ham Fish was also courageous. By the 1980s, civil rights 
     legislation, although vitally needed, was not popular in many 
     places. Although there were 40 or so Republicans in the House 
     who joined with Ham Fish in providing the critical votes for 
     civil rights laws, by the mid-80s almost none of them were on 
     the House Judiciary Committee. That meant that Ham walked a 
     lonely path. Often, under circumstances when we would 
     ordinarily meet with staff, we met with Mr. Fish alone 
     because of concerns about the divided loyalties of the 
     committee staff. That isolation had to be difficult for Ham 
     although he never talked about it or said a bad word about 
     any of his colleagues. It surely would have been easier to go 
     along with fellow committee members who could, if they became 
     displeased enough, vote him out of his position as ranking 
     minority member of the committee. But Ham Fish followed his 
     conscience just as he did in that early vote to impeach a 
     President and on so many other matters.
       Last year as I was leaving the moving memorial service for 
     Representative Fish at St. Albans Chapel in Washington, I ran 
     into a Republican Congressman I knew. He is a very bright and 
     capable legislator who had made an unsuccessful run for 
     higher office and then returned to the House and his record 
     on issues of civil rights and social justice is a mixed one. 
     As we were parting I said to him ``I hope you will carry on 
     in the tradition of Ham Fish.'' I hadn't planned to say that 
     and I wasn't sure how he would take it since he regards 
     himself as very independent. But he clearly was flattered and 
     he replied that he hoped he would be equal to the task.
       In the months that followed, there was one clear test of 
     character in the House and this Congressman stood up with a 
     handful of other Republicans to go against his party's 
     demands and to vote his conscience. I like to believe he was 
     thinking of Ham Fish when he cast that vote. I don't know 
     that for sure.
       But I do know that Hamilton Fish left his legacy in many 
     places--in the passion for justice of his children who I have 
     become acquainted with over the years, in the civil rights 
     and other communities he served, and in the Congress itself. 
     It is a legacy of commitment, of generosity of spirit and of 
     courage. And it should leave us all a bit more hopeful about 
     the future.

     

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