Guy Vander Jagt

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Guy Vander Jagt
Guy Vander Jagt.png
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan's 9th district
In office
November 8, 1966 – January 3, 1993
Preceded by Robert P. Griffin
Succeeded by Pete Hoekstra
Personal details
Born (1931-08-26)August 26, 1931
Cadillac, Michigan
Died May 22, 2007(2007-05-22) (aged 75)
Washington, D.C.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Carol Ann Vander Jagt (1964–2007; his death)
Alma mater Hope College, Yale University, University of Michigan
Occupation Attorney, Newcaster, Pastor, Disc Jockey, Politician
Religion Presbyterian

Guy Adrian Vander Jagt (/ˌvændər ˈæk/ VAN-dər JAK; August 26, 1931 – June 22, 2007) was a Republican politician from Michigan. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and Chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Vander Jagt was described by President Nixon as "the best public speaker in America," a sentiment echoed by the producer of the Homebuilder's Convention: "I've been doing this for 26 years and have worked with Colin Powell, Margaret Thatcher and George Bush and many other greats and Vander Jagt was by far the best speaker we ever had." Ronald Reagan was quoted as saying "some call me the great communicator but if there was one thing I dreaded during my eight years in Washington it was having to follow Guy Vander Jagt to the podium."[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Vander Jagt was born in Cadillac, Michigan, to Marie and Harry Vander Jagt, a Dutch immigrant. Harry was a rancher, and as a youth, Guy worked on the family's 120-acre (0.49 km2) farm near Cadillac. His talent for public speaking emerged as he began preaching at the Tustin Presbyterian Church while still a student at Cadillac High School. He graduated from Hope College in Holland in 1953. While a student at Hope College, he was the state debate champion of Michigan for three years and won the National Oratorical Championship during his senior year. He was also the student body president during his senior year and worked as a radio disc jockey at WHTC.

Vander Jagt went on to attend Yale Divinity School, graduating in 1955 with a B.D.. In 1956, he received a Rotary Foundation Fellowship to study for a year at the University of Bonn, Germany.[2]

When he returned to West Michigan, Vander Jagt served as an interim pastor of the Cadillac Congregational Church for a short time, before working at the WWTV television station as a newscaster and news director. He reportedly memorized the text of each broadcast.[3]

Vander Jagt next went back to school to study law at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., but soon transferred to the University of Michigan Law School, where he received his J.D. in 1960. He began practicing law in Grand Rapids.

State Senate[edit]

In 1964, he was elected to the Michigan State Senate.

Following the death of U.S. Senator Patrick V. McNamara in April 1966, Vander Jagt, along with fellow Republicans Robert P. Griffin and Leroy Augenstein, was a leading contender for appointment to the vacant U.S. Senate seat. Michigan Governor George Romney set guidelines for determining a consensus candidate, and when it became clear that none would meet the 65% support level that Romney demanded, Vander Jagt withdrew and threw his support behind Griffin, who was appointed to the Senate in May. In turn, Vander Jagt was elected in November simultaneously to fill the remainder of Griffin's term in the U.S. House and to a full term.

He was reelected 12 times, never facing truly serious opposition in a district widely considered to be the most Republican district in Michigan.

Congressional career[edit]

Committees[edit]

One of his earliest appointments was to the House Committee on Science and Astronautics during the development of the U.S. space program and leading to the moon landing. On the Conservation and National Resources Subcommittee, he worked to establish Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore near his home, although he later had cause to note that park mismanagement illustrated "one of the most reprehensible aspects of the land acquisition process." As a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, President Richard Nixon sent him on trade missions to Africa and Asia. Vander Jagt was appointed to the Ways and Means Committee in 1974 where he served on the Trade and Select Revenue Measures Subcommittees. He continued to serve on this committee throughout his House career. He also served on the Joint Tax Committee of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate.

National leadership[edit]

In 1980, Vander Jagt was chosen by presidential nominee Ronald Reagan to deliver the keynote address at the Republican National Convention in Detroit. He delivered the address without notes, relying entirely on memory. He was being considered as a potential Vice Presidential candidate. Using momentum from the convention speech, Vander Jagt ran for House Minority Leader after John J. Rhodes of Arizona decided not to run for the post again, but lost to Bob Michel of Illinois. Vander Jagt served as Chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee from 1975 until he left the House. Vander Jagt made a young Newt Gingrich the chairman of a Republican long-range planning committee before Gingrich was even sworn in, catapulting him ahead of sitting committee members.

Repeal of the Twenty-Second Constitutional Amendment[edit]

In the late 1980s, Vander Jagt helped lead an effort to repeal the Twenty-second Amendment to the United States Constitution, which limits a President to serve two terms. "Ronald Reagan is one of the greatest American Presidents of all time, and I want to keep him on the job," he explained in 1986, in a fundraising letter to raise funds for such a campaign.[4] In 1986, and again in 1987, 1989, and 1991, he sponsored such an amendment in the House.

Post-government career[edit]

In 1992, Vander Jagt lost the Republican primary to challenger and fellow Dutch-American Peter Hoekstra for Michigan's 2nd congressional district. He went back into private law practice with the Cleveland, Ohio-based law firm Baker & Hostetler, LLP.

Quote[edit]

You know, there is a difference between Republicans and Democrats. By and large Democrats really do believe in more spending so government can do more good things for people. Republicans really do believe in less spending so the taxpayer can keep more. – In an interview with the PBS show Frontline

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Inter-Speak biography
  2. ^ Hope College Press Release. "Former U.S. Congressman Guy Vander Jagt Dies". Posted 2007-06-22, Accessed 2007-06-23
  3. ^ Brooky, Mark. "Former U.S. Rep. Guy Vander Jagt dies". Grand Haven Tribune. Saturday 2007-06-23. Accessed 2007-06-23
  4. ^ "Promoting Reagan for a 3d Term". The New York Times. July 22, 1986. 
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Robert P. Griffin
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Michigan's 9th congressional district

1966–1993
Succeeded by
Dale Kildee