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Benjamin Gilman

(1922 - )


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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 County.

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 Masons.

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 world.

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 Republic.

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 Gilman’s office.

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 official."


Sources: Congressman Benjamin Gilman

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