Ben Erdreich

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Ben Erdreich
Ben Erdreich 102nd Congress 1991.png
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Alabama's 6th district
In office
January 3, 1983 – January 3, 1993
Preceded byAlbert L. Smith, Jr.
Succeeded bySpencer Bachus
Personal details
Born
Benjamin Erdreich

(1938-12-09) December 9, 1938 (age 80)
Birmingham, Alabama
Political partyDemocratic
ProfessionLawyer

Benjamin Erdreich (born December 9, 1938) is a former United States congressman from Alabama.

Early life[edit]

Erdreich was born in Birmingham, Alabama to an upper-middle-class family. He attended Yale University, graduating in 1960. He served as editor of the Alabama Law Review while attending the University of Alabama law school, graduating in 1963. He passed the bar that year.

After law school, he served two years in the United States Army before setting up a private law practice.[1] Between 1970 and 1974, Erdreich served one term as a Democrat in the Alabama House of Representatives. He was elected as a Jefferson County Commissioner, serving until 1982.

Congressional career[edit]

In 1982, Erdreich was elected to Congress from the 6th District, based in Birmingham, defeating one-term Republican incumbent Albert Smith, Jr.. Erdreich was re-elected four times from the urban 6th district, rarely facing serious opposition. He is among a number of Jewish politicians to be elected to federal office from the Deep South.

Erdreich was the first Democrat to represent the 6th since 1965. It was among the five districts won in 1964 by Republicans during Barry Goldwater's sweep of the state in that year's presidential election. Analysts believe that Goldwater's performance in Alabama was also related to resistance and opposition to federal passage of civil rights legislation in 1964 and 1965, including the Voting Rights Act, that was disapproved of by many white residents. Because the state's white majority has essentially switched to the Republican Party, this was the last time a Democratic challenger defeated a Republican congressman in Alabama.

In 1992, Erdreich's district was significantly redrawn as a result of a United States Department of Justice directive to create a majority-black district in the Birmingham area in order to overcome problems of voter dilution. African Americans had been divided into different districts that diluted their voting power by making them a minority in each district, preventing them from electing candidates of their choice. The state legislature failed to take action, and a federal court drew a map that shifted most of Birmingham's black residents to the 7th District.

To make up for the loss in population, the 6th was redrawn to taken in several whiter and wealthier areas of Shelby and Tuscaloosa counties, areas which Erdreich had never represented while in office. Erdreich now found himself in a district that was mostly suburban and Republican, with a population that was almost 97 percent white. By comparison, his old district was urban in character, with more liberal Democratic voters, and approximately 35 percent black.

Erdreich outspent his opponent, state Republican Party chairman Spencer Bachus, almost 2 to 1, but could not overcome the more Republican bent of his new district and lost by seven percentage points. In the same election, George H. W. Bush prevailed over challenger Bill Clinton in the district by about 74 percent to 26 percent, demonstrating its conservative character. Further demonstrating just how Republican this district was, no Democratic candidate in the district has gained more than 30 percent of the vote.

Erdreich was known for his bipartisan work in Congress, and co-sponsored several hundred bills during his five terms.

The Hugo L. Black United States Courthouse in Birmingham, Alabama

He was the lead sponsor of four bills that were signed by the president and enacted into law:

  • 1987, H.R. 614, A bill to designate the new United States courthouse in Birmingham, Alabama, as the "Hugo L. Black United States Courthouse" (co-sponsored by the entire Alabama congressional delegation).
  • 1990, H.R. 3691, to redesignate the Federal building located at 1800 5th Avenue, North in Birmingham, Alabama, as the "Robert S. Vance Federal Building" (co-sponsored by the entire Alabama congressional delegation and several others).
  • 1990, H.R. 1243, The Department of Energy Metal Casting Competitiveness Research Act of 1990, co-sponsored by the entire Alabama congressional delegation and several others.
  • 1992, H.R.4398, The Federal Reserve Bank Branch Modernization Act, with no co-sponsors.

Recent life and career[edit]

Erdreich is currently involved with property development in Birmingham, concentrating on central-city projects.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Congressional bio of Erdreich (retrieved 2009 July 11).
  • United States Congress. "Ben Erdreich (id: E000201)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Albert L. Smith, Jr.
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Alabama's 6th congressional district

1983–1993
Succeeded by
Spencer Bachus