WOLPE, HOWARD ELIOT III (1939– ), U.S. congressman and scholar. A native of Los Angeles, Wolpe attended public schools there. He earned his bachelor's degree from Reed College in 1960 and received a Ph.D. in African studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1967. His doctoral work included two years of field study in Nigeria.
From 1967 to 1972, Wolpe taught in the political science department of Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, specializing in African political systems. He also served as a consultant to the Peace Corps. Developing an interest in local politics, Wolpe was elected to the Kalamazoo City Council in 1969. In 1972 he was elected to the Michigan State Legislature, the first Democrat to represent Kalamazoo. He served there until 1976, when he ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Congress. He was subsequently hired as the regional representative of U.S. Senator Donald Riegle. In 1978 Wolpe was elected to Congress as representative of Michigan's Third Congressional District, traditionally a Republican stronghold.
Following his reelection to Congress in 1980, Wolpe was appointed chair of the Africa Subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs Committee, a position he held from 1981 to 1992. Considered a compassionate proponent of economic aid to emerging African nations, Wolpe was a leading critic of American military aid to Zaire, and he opposed the Reagan administration's requests for increased military aid to Kenya, the Sudan, Morocco, and Tunisia. He was highly critical of South African apartheid. He argued throughout his legislative career for a
In 1992, following reformulation of Michigan's congressional districts, Wolpe retired from Congress. He then served under President Bill Clinton as special envoy to Africa. He was named the director of the Africa Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC, a program aimed at promoting dialogue among policy-makers and academic specialists regarding U.S. policy toward African nations.
Wolpe is the author of several books, including Urban Politics in Nigeria (1974), Nigeria: Modernization and the Politics of Communism (as editor, with Robert Melson, 1971), and United States and Africa: A Post-Cold War Perspective (with David F. Gordon and David Miller, Jr., 1998). He was a visiting fellow in the Foreign Policy Studies program of the Brookings Institution. Wolpe also headed the Burundi Leadership Training Program, funded by the World Bank and the U.S. Agency for International Development, which aims to reduce factionalism in post-conflict Burundi.