Robert J. Mrazek

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Robert Jan "Bob" Mrazek
Robert J. Mrazek.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 3rd district
In office
January 3, 1983 – January 3, 1993
Preceded by Gregory W. Carman
Succeeded by Peter T. King
Personal details
Born (1945-11-06) November 6, 1945 (age 68)
Newport, Rhode Island
Political party Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Catherine Susan Mrazek nee Gurick (1971-2004, her death)
Carolyn Rae Mrazek née Allen (2005-present)
Children Susannah Rose, James Nicholas
Residence Ithaca, New York
Alma mater Cornell University
[1]

Robert Jan "Bob" Mrazek (born November 6, 1945) was a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives, representing New York's 3rd congressional district on Long Island for most of the 1980s. Also an author, he has written works of military fiction and non-fiction, set in the time periods of the American Civil War and World War II.

Biography[edit]

Mrazek grew up in Huntington, New York, graduating from Cornell University (1967). He joined the United States Navy to serve in the Vietnam War, but was disabled by a training injury at Officer Candidate School in Newport. After a period of hospitalization with wounded Marines, he turned against the war.[2] After his 1968 discharge, he was an aide to U.S. Senator Vance Hartke (1969–1971).[1]

He was elected to the Suffolk County Legislature, 1975–1982 and became its minority leader. He was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1980, 1988, and 1992.

Democrat Mrazek was first elected in 1982 to the 98th United States Congress, defeating John LeBoutillier,[3] a one-term Conservative Republican Congressman in the 3rd district. (The districts had been redrawn to reflect the 1980 U.S. Census.)

Freshman members usually do not sit on the House Appropriations Committee, but Mrazek persuaded Speaker of the House of Representatives Tip O'Neill to make an exception for him.[4] After being elected to his fifth term in Congress, Mrazek announced that he would not stand for re-election, choosing instead to explore a run for the United States Senate in 1992. He abandoned this race after being swept up along with hundreds of other members of Congress implicated in the House banking scandal. Mrazek served in the United States House of Representatives from 1983 until he retired in 1993.

Legislation[edit]

Mrazek wrote laws to preserve 3,000,000 acres (12,000 km2) of old-growth forest in Alaska's Tongass National Forest; to protect the Manassas Civil War battlefield in Virginia; to hamper the U.S. Government's ability to intervene in Nicaragua.[5] He also wrote the Amerasian Homecoming Act, which brought the children of American military personnel from Vietnam home to the USA, and the National Film Preservation Act, which established the National Film Registry in the Library of Congress.[2]

Edwards Substitute Amendment to Title II, HR 5052 regarding Nicaragua was passed in June 1986; it limited the Reagan Administration's use of one hundred million dollars Congress had approved for military assistance to Contras seeking to overthrow the Sandinista National Liberation Front. Four amendments were proposed to put restrictions on the aid; in offering his, Mrazek raised concern that a Gulf of Tonkin type of incident could be exploited by the Reagan Administration to widen the course of the war, since the Contra camps were located along the border between Honduras and Nicaragua, and firefights between the Contras and the Sandanistas erupted regularly along the border. Mrazek argued that if American troops were killed in one of the camps, the Reagan Administration might send American forces into Nicaragua itself. Eventual declassification of secret White House memoranda revealed Mrazek’s concerns were justified.[6] Of the four amendments being considered in the House of Representatives to put restrictions on the aid, the only one to win passage was the Mrazek amendment, which banned all U.S. personnel involved in training Contras from coming within 20 miles (32 km) of the Nicaraguan border.{http://www.govtrack.us/congress/vote.xpd?vote=h1986-620}

Amerasian Homecoming Act became law in December 1987. In the wake of its passage, approximately 25,000 children fathered by American servicemen during the Vietnam War were brought to the United States. Called "bui doi" ("children of the dust") by the Vietnamese because their faces and skin color were painful reminders of the war, they faced terrible discrimination in their homeland; often they were even prevented from going to school. {http://www.smithsonianmag.com/issue/June_2009.html} By the mid-1980s, thousands were living in the streets. The United States at first refused to take responsibility for them, but in 1987, at the behest of high school students in his Congressional District who wrote a diplomatically- worded letter to the Vietnamese mission in NYC, Mrazek went to Vietnam and brought out an American-Vietnamese child named Le Van Minh, who was a beggar in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) (Asia Magazine, September 20, 1987). While in Vietnam, he met dozens of other Amerasian children, many of whom begged to "go to the land of my father." As a result, Mrazek authored the bill, which became law. Since its passage, many of the Amerasians brought to the United States by the bill have found success after graduation from college, as teachers, entrepreneurs, and business people. {http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/asiapcf/06/02/vietnam.stories.irpt/index.html?hpt=C11, Asia Magazine (Ibid.), and http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/Children-of-the-Dust.html}

Manassas Battlefield Protection Act: With Representative Michael Andrews (D-TX), Mrazek led the fight in the House of Representatives to prevent the Civil War battlefield at Manassas, Virginia, from being turned into a shopping mall. In April, 1988, he inserted an amendment into an appropriations bill that prohibited federal funds from being used to plan and design a needed interchange near the 452-acre (1.83 km2) tract of land. <http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/1988-09-11/news/0070010135_1_manassas-national-battlefield-conference-committee-acre> He and Andrews then introduced H.R. 4526, which authorized the federal government to acquire the land and add it to the battlefield park. In the contentious battle over the legislation, Donald Hodel, President Ronald Reagan's Secretary of the Interior, launched personal attacks on Mrazek and Andrews, accusing them of "playing politics" with the battlefield. {http://articles.latimes.com/1988-07-08/news/mn-6901_1_house-democrats} Nevertheless, the bill drafted by Mrazek was signed into law by President Reagan in November, 1988. {http://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/mana/ADHIA4.HTM}

National Film Preservation Act: In 1988, as classic films like High Noon and Casablanca were being colorized and other early films were being "time-compressed" by television broadcasters to allow the insertion of more commercials, Mrazek introduced a proposal to protect classic American films from significant alteration without the permission of the films' creators. While the proposal was being considered, the "Mrazek Amendment" generated an intense lobbying campaign against its passage, led on behalf of the major film studios by Jack Valenti, President of the Motion Picture Association. <http://www.loc.gov/film/pdfs/schwartzcopsocietyjournal.pdf> At one point, Valenti said the proposal "...puts a spike in the eye of normal House procedure and creates a group which is something out of 1984." ("Jimmy Stewart goes to Washington" NYTimes, June 16, 1988) The legislation was backed by many members of Hollywood's creative community, including actors Burt Lancaster and James Stewart, directors Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, all of whom wanted to see the integrity of their work preserved without alteration. (NYTimes, Ibid.) Ultimately the Mrazek amendment prevailed in Congress; its final provisions included the establishment of the National Film Registry, in which 25 films per year deemed "culturally, historically, or esthetically significant" are protected by the Library of Congress. The law also set up the National Film Preservation Board to explore new approaches to saving endangered work. It was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on September 27, 1988. <http://www.dga.org/thedga/bas_history.php3>

The Tongass Timber Reform Act, which affected logging operations in the nation's largest national forest, was signed into law by President George H. W. Bush in 1990. First introduced by Mrazek in 1986, the proposed law was the subject of several years of contentious debate between its author and members of the Alaska Congressional delegation, including Representative Don Young (R-AK). After being defeated in a House vote on a Mrazek amendment in 1990, Young allegedly "went berserk," tracked Mrazek down in a House corridor and threatened him with a knife. (Outside Magazine, November 1995 {http://outsideonline.com/magazine/1195/11f_out.html}). Mrazek's landmark conservation law revoked the artificially high timber cutting targets, protecting over two million acres (8,000 km²) of Tongaas old-growth forest and watershed acreage, mandating broad buffers for all salmon and resident fishing streams. {http://seacc.org/successes/tongaas-history}

Awards, Non- Literary[edit]

For his conservation and preservation work, the Director’s Guild of America awarded Mrazek its first Legislative Achievement Award in 1987; in 1988, Mrazek, along with Andrews, was named a Conservationist of the Year by the NPCA, the National Parks Conservation Association, for their efforts to protect Manassas National Battlefield from adjacent land development. {http://www.npca.org/who_we_are/contact_us.html} The Governor of New York gave Mrazek the Commissioner’s Preservationist Award in 1990. {http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/books_9780316021395_AboutAuthor.htm}

Author[edit]

Since retiring from Congress, Mrazek has published five books, including three novels, and two works of non-fiction; he has also written a screenplay.

  • "Catatonk Blues,” Mrazek's first screenplay, was filmed in 2013 on Monhegan Island and in Rockland and Augusta, ME.[5]
  • Unholy Fire, Mrazek's second Civil War novel, was published by St. Martin's Press in 2003.
  • A Dawn Like Thunder: The True Story of Torpedo Squadron Eight, Mrazek's first non-fiction work, was published by Little, Brown & Co., in 2008. A Dawn Like Thunder was named as a "Best Book of 2009 (American History)" by the Washington Post.[8]
  • To Kingdom Come: An Epic Saga of Survival in the Air War Over Germany, published by NAL-Penguin in 2011, is an account of the ill-fated bombing mission of the American Air Force "Flying Fortress" team sent to raid Stuttgart in September, 1943. It was chosen as a main selection of the Military and History Book Club.[9]

Publications[edit]

Adapted for audio (six cassettes), read by Jeff Woodman, Recorded Books, 1999.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Robert J. Mrazek." Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2008. Entry updated: 05/29/2008. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Michigan: Gale, 2009. http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/BioRC. Fee via Fairfax County Public Library, accessed 2009-08-23.
  2. ^ "A Dawn Like Thunder - about the author". Retrieved 2009-08-23. 
  3. ^ Guthrie, Benjamin J. (1983). "Statistics of the Congressional Election of November 2, 1982". Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 27. Retrieved 2009-08-23. 
  4. ^ Hymel, Gary; Tip O'Neill (January 23, 1994). "All Politics is Local and other Rules of the Game". Retrieved 2011-12-30. "And Tip went out of his way to help the Democrat in that area, Bob Mrazek, who was then elected. As a matter of fact, Mrazek told a story about how he went in to see Tip for a committee assignment. He was a freshman; I don't think Tip had ever met him. So he goes in and he says, "I want to be on Appropriations." Tip says, "No. No freshman will get on Appropriations this year. There will be none. So what else do you want?" Mrazek says, "I'm the guy who beat Leboutillier." Tip says, "Have you thought about majority leader?" The Hymel reference is to a humorous speech Mrazek delivered as a freshman congressman to the Washington Correspondent's Dinner in December 1982, in which Mrazek spoke about how he won a coveted spot on Appropriations." 
  5. ^ By  LISA KRISTOFF, Arts & Entertainment Editor (2013-10-21). "A story about fighting the good fight: ‘Catatonk Blues’". Boothbay Register. Retrieved 2014-07-29. 
  6. ^ "The Michael Shaara Award for Excellence in Civil War Fiction". Louisiana State University. Retrieved 9 August 2011. 
  7. ^ "W.Y. Boyd Literary Award for Excellence in Military Fiction | Awards & Grants". Ala.org. 2013-12-01. Retrieved 2014-07-29. 
  8. ^ "Best Books of 2009". The Washington Post. 
  9. ^ [1][dead link]

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Gregory W. Carman
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 3rd congressional district

1983–1993
Succeeded by
Peter T. King