(1922 - )
He was elected to his 14th term in the U.S. House of
Representatives on Nov. 3, 1998. His 20th District of New York includes
Rockland County in its entirety, western Orange County, southern Sullivan
County, and the Town of Greenburgh and the northeastern corner of the City
of Yonkers in Westchester County.
Since the convening of the 104th Congress on Jan. 4,
1995, Rep. Gilman has served as Chairman of the House International
Relations Committee, formerly known as the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Gilman's assumption of this position, reported the Washington Post (Dec. 9,
1994), signals that "U.S. military operations in foreign countries
will be subjected to more congressional scrutiny and some new legislative
controls." In his capacity as Chairman, Gilman is the primary
spokesperson in the House for foreign policy and offers a strong guiding
hand for all legislative initiatives. He began his third twoyear term as
Chairman in Jan. 1999.
During the 1981 session of the United Nations, Rep.
Gilman served as Congressional Delegate to the U.N., serving under
Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick. Gilman also served on the Ukraine Famine
Commission, the U.S.European and the U.S.Mexican Interparliamentary
Conferences, as Congressional Advisor to the U.N. Law of the Sea
Conference, as cochair of the Ad Hoc Committee on Irish Affairs, and on
the International Task Force on Narcotics.
Congressman Gilman won worldwide acclaim in 1978 as a
human rights champion, due to his successful efforts to bring about
"prisoner exchanges" which resulted in freedom for prisoners in
East Germany, Mozambique, Cuba, and several
other nations. A profile in People Magazine (June 19, 1978) editorialized
that "Ben Gilman sees his political life as one long effort to help
individuals in distress." In 1980, Rep. Gilman successfully fought to
have thirty U.S. citizens freed from political imprisonment by the Cuban
government. The internationally acclaimed journalist Jacobo Timmermann
noted in his autobiography that Rep. Gilman paid him a humanitarian visit
in his prison cell in juntaruled Argentina and subsequently helped him regain his freedom. Gilman has been an
Executive Member of the Human Rights Caucus. During the 101st Congress
(198991), he was the Chairman of the House Task Force on the Emigration
of Soviet Jewry. In 1993, he was appointed a Member of the U.S. Holocaust
Memorial Council by thenSpeaker Foley. He was reappointed by each House
Speaker ever since.
As Ranking Minority Member on the House Post Office
& Civil Service Committee (198993), Rep. Gilman earned a reputation
as a key spokesperson for a safe, equitable workplace for civil service and
postal service employees. Today he is a senior Republican on its successor
the Government Reform & Oversight Committee .
Noted for his relentless crusade against Narcotics Abuse
and Trafficking, Gilman cofounded the House Select Committee on
Narcotics, was Ranking Republican on that Committee (197789), and served
as a premier Member of that Committee until its abolition in February 1993.
A profile in the Rockland Journal News (April 2, 1989) said that Rep.
Gilman views the fight against drugs to be "the issue he sees
dominating the moral, ethical and political fibers of the country, and is
what he terms 'the top crisis in America'."
Rep. Gilman became actively involved in fighting world
hunger and malnutrition during the mid1970's, when he was recruited by
the late singersongwriter Harry Chapin. Rep. Gilman authored the
legislation creating the Presidential Commission Against Hunger, and
subsequently, the Select Committee on World Hunger.
Rep. Gilman was a Member (197577) of the Select
Committee on Prisoners of War and Missing in Action in Southeast Asia, and
subsequently served as Chairman of the Task Force on that issue. He has
taken our nation's fight for an accounting of our POWs and MIAs to Vietnam,
Laos and China on a number of occasions.
Born in Poughkeepsie, NY, on Dec. 6, 1922, Ben was
educated in the public school system of Middletown, NY. He received his
B.S. in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of
Business and Finance (1946) and earned his LL.B. from the New York Law
School (1950)one of the few persons to enter Congress with a
background in both business and law.
During World War II,
Ben served as a Staff Sergeant in the 19th Bomb Group of the 20th Army Air
Force, flying 35 missions over Japan and earning the Distinguished Flying
Cross and the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Clusters. Prior to his first election
to Congress, Ben Gilman served as an Assistant Attorney General in the
N.Y.S. Law Dept. and as Counsel to the State Assembly's Committee on Local
Finance. In 1966, he was elected to the first of three consecutive terms as
a Member of the New York State Assembly, representing western Orange
Among the honors bestowed upon Rep. Gilman are: The
National V.F.W. Medal of Merit for "administering to the needs of
veterans" (1972); the 1976 "Man of the Year Award" by the
Citizens for Clean Government "for honest and effective service in
government"; the President's Mental Retardation Commission
"Certificate of Appreciation (1977); the "Distinguished Service
Award" from HHS Administrative Law Judges "for outstanding
efforts on behalf of the aged and disabled" (1980); the President's
Certificate of Outstanding Achievement "for continued, demonstrated
vision, initiative, and leadership in the effort to achieve a world without
hunger" (1984); the "Man of the Year" award (1983) and the
"Silver Beaver" Boy Scout award (1994), both from the HudsonDelaware
Boy Scout Council; the "Americanism" award from the Westchester
American Legion (1989); the Citizenship Award of the American
Administrative Law Judges Association (1991); the "Tree of Life"
award from Temple Sinai in Middletown (1992), The Tappan Zee International
Trade Association Award (1992), and the premier "Defender of
Israel" award, presented by the Christians' Israel Public Action
Campaign (1995). Rep. Gilman has annually received the "Peace Through
Strength" Award presented by the American Security Council.
Congressman Gilman is the recipient of honorary degrees
from St. Thomas Aquinas (1977) and Mercy (1984) Colleges and Yeshiva
University (1995). Graduate school scholarship programs at the University
of Belfast in Northern Ireland and at the University of Limerick in the
Republic of Ireland were established in Rep. Gilman's honor in 1995. In the
same year, a speakers chair in Gilman's honor was established at St. Thomas
Aquinas College in Rockland County.
In 1996, Rep. Gilman received the Pericles Award from
the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association, the Herbert
Tenzler Memorial Award, the Sean McBride Peace and Justice Award, the
America Israel Friendship Medal, The "Thomas Jefferson Award"
from Food Distribution International, and the "Respect for Law
Medal" from the Respect for Law Conference. In 1997, Rep. Gilman was
awarded the Theodore Herzel Award for his lifetime work in promoting Zionism, Israel and the cause of Soviet Jewry. He was also presented with the Distinguished
Service Medal, the highest award bestowed by the New York Grand Lodge of
On January 29, 1999, Rep. Gilman was presented with the
Judge Charles W Froessel Award by the Alumni Association of the New York
Law School, his alma mater.
Rep. Gilman is a Member of the American Legion, the
Jewish War Veterans, the Masonic War Veterans; the Otisville Grange, and
the HudsonDelaware Boy Scout Council. He is a former County Commander of
the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and also is a member of the B.P.O. Elks and a
33 degree Mason in Hoffman Lodge. Rep. Gilman is a Colonel in the New York
Guard and is a member of the International Narcotic Enforcement Officers
Association. He was a co-founder and charter member of the NAACP in
Middletown, New York.
In an editorial (July 27, 2000) endorsing him for re
election, the Rockland County Times stated: Despite attempts to paint
him to the contrary, Representative Gilman is a man of the people, who has
spent his entire life in blameless public service, saving thousands of
lives from tyranny, and playing an unheralded part in the winning of the
cold war. Though he is at an age most people would have welcomed
retirement, Gilman continues in harness to serve the needs of the people of
Rockland County and his district. Because that service has been
selflessly given in the highest of American traditions, we unanimously
endorse Mr. Gilman for reelection.
The editorial continued: From the time he saw first
hand the tyranny of Nazi Germany,
and lost many members of his family in the holocaust,
Mr. Gilman has been preeminent in the fight for human rights throughout the
He has been to Africa, Asia, then Communist Europe, and
South America, fighting for human rights before the fight became popular.
He has been a staunch advocate of international law, and
has fought the drug trade to the extent of his ability.
Wherever and whenever possible, Mr. Gilman has stretched
out his hand to save human life, or to act as the avenging sword of
justice, as he did so recently in two cases involving the Dominican
It is not immaterial that Mr. Gilman has been totally
unmarked by the scandals that have surrounded the House of Representatives
over the last 30 years.
From the time he became a congressman, Mr. Gilman made
sure his financial house was always in order, and has adopted the most
rigorous code of ethics of any congressman that we have ever seen.
Moreover, even though he is one of the most powerful men in the United
States, he never puts on airs. Any constituent, even if they voted
against him 14 times, will find an open door at Congressman Gilmans
His personal bravery - both during the Second World War
(where he won the distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Clusters) and in
his work freeing hostages during the cold war - is beyond cavil. His
concern for veterans and his continuous fight for the missing in action
also merit our warmest approbation.
Congressman Gilman is married to the former Georgia
Nickles Tingus. They reside in The Town of Greenville in Orange County, NY,
and in Washington, DC . The Gilmans have 5 children and 3 grandchildren.
A Middletown Times Herald Record profile (Aug. 19, 1997)
quoted Rep. Gilman as stating his main focus is Congress is: "Helping
people. Just like when I was a lawyer . . . we're doing the same sort of
things here, helping people with problems."
"Congressman Gilman," stated Rockland/Bergen
Spotlight magazine (January 1988), "is not your average public
Sources: Congressman Benjamin Gilman