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Martin Frost

FROST, MARTIN (1942– ), U.S. congressman. Frost was born in California but raised in Fort Worth, Texas. As a youngster he was deeply involved in the National Federation of Temple Youth, the Reform Youth Movement where he was a regional and national officer. He went to the University of Missouri, where he received a bachelor of journalism degree. He then worked for a Delaware newspaper and later for the Congressional Quarterly while he trained to be a lawyer at Georgetown University Law Center. Upon graduation, he clerked for Judge Sarah T. Hughes until 1972. He was also a legal commentator on Dallas television.

He first ran for Congress in 1974 and was defeated in a primary against a very popular TV weatherman. He sat out the next campaign while he ran Jimmy Carter's presidential campaign in North Texas. His district was more than one-third African American and 15 percent Hispanic, not necessarily an ideal political base for a Jewish candidate. Yet, with perseverance and organization, two traits that were to characterize his political career, he ran again in 1978 in the Democratic primary against the same incumbent weatherman and in a very big upset, prevailed.

Upon entering Congress Frost allied himself with then Majority Leader James Wright, a fellow Texan who rewarded the freshman with a seat on the powerful House Rules Committee. He was an ally to Wright and his fortunes rose when Wright became speaker of the House. They dipped after Wright was forced to resign, but he rose again to leadership as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and then as chairman of the Democratic Caucus, the third most important position in the House.

Frost was a successful fundraiser and very savvy political strategist and organizer; he headed the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in both the 1996 and 1998 cycles. In the 106th Congress he became chair of the Democratic Caucus, the first Jew ever to hold that position. His wife, Kathryn George Frost, retired as a major general and former adjutant general of the United States Army. She was the highest-ranking female in the United States Army. Frost raised three daughters, one of whom became a rabbi and one a chef.

Entering Congress in 1978, Frost served for 13 terms until he was defeated in the 2004 election after the mid-decade reapportionment bill, orchestrated by fellow Texan, House Majority Leader Tom Delay, passed the Texas Legislature. His district, which was once primarily a minority district was transformed by absorbing Republican strongholds, and what had been a secure seat was lost to the Republicans. When he was retired, he was one of the most senior Democrats in the House, in the South, and of the Jewish delegation. He remained in Washington but also taught at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and served as a commentator for Fox News.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.