This Day In History: June 11th
With the charismatic Adam Clayton Powell Jr. as his predecessor, Charles Rangel had big shoes to fill stepping into the role of United States Representative. Rangel was born in New York on June 11, 1930, and committed more than four decades of his life to representing the interest of his constituents.
Here are five things to know about the pioneering politician, Charles Rangel!
- Life Before Politics. Charles Rangel grew up in Harlem and was raised by his mother and grandmother. He dropped out of high school and served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. While serving in the army, Rangel was badly wounded and received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his time abroad. After returning to New York, he earned a bachelor of science degree from New York University under the GI bill and a law degree from St. John’s University Law School. He passed the New York bar in 1960 and began practicing law.
- Entering The World Of Politics. Soon after passing the bar, Rangel was appointed as the assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. He was elected to the New York State Assembly and decided to advance his political reach by campaigning for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Rangel defeated the incumbent representative, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., by only 150 votes in the primary, but secured his win in the general election. His political prowess earned him the moniker “Lion of Lenox Avenue.”
- Historic House Committee Assignment. When Rangel entered the 92nd Congress, he pushed for a seat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee. The Committee on Ways and Means is the primary tax-writing committee of the House of Representatives. The committee has jurisdiction over all taxation, tariffs, other revenue-raising measures, and programs such as Social Security, unemployment benefits and Medicare. Members can not serve on any other House Committee unless they are granted permission from their party’s leadership. Rangel made history with the assignment because he became the first African-American member and in 2007, he became the first African-American chairman of the esteemed committee.
- Founding Member Of The Congressional Black Caucus. The Congressional Black Caucus is the result of 13 Congressmen coming together to create a forum where they could discuss common political challenges and interests. Rangel was a part of the founding 13 members. The others include: Shirley A. Chisholm (D-N.Y.), William L. Clay, Sr. (D-Mo.), George W. Collins (D-Ill.), John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), Ronald V. Dellums (D-Calif.), Charles C. Diggs, Jr. (D-Mich.), Augustus F. Hawkins (D-Calif.), Ralph H. Metcalfe (D-Ill.), Parren J. Mitchell (D-Md.), Robert N.C. Nix, Sr. (D-Pa.), Louis Stokes (D-Ohio), and Walter E. Fauntroy (D-D.C.). Rangel served as the organization’s Chairman and focused on economic opportunities for African-Americans as well as putting an end to South African apartheid.
- Second-Longest Serving Congressman In The House of Representatives. Rangel’s political career with the House of Representatives lasted 46 years. During his tenure he was one of only two African-American Representatives to chair three separate committees. At the time of his retirement, he made history as the second-longest serving incumbent member of the House of Representatives since the start of his first term in 1971.
After serving the public for nearly half of a century, Rangel passed the torch to his successor, Adriano Espaillat. Despite his departure from Congress, Rangel promised to stay committed to the community and people he served for so long.