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Hank Johnson

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Hank Johnson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Georgia's 4th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2007
Preceded byCynthia McKinney
Personal details
Henry Calvin Johnson Jr.

(1954-10-02) October 2, 1954 (age 69)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
SpouseMereda Davis
Residence(s)Lithonia, Georgia, U.S.
EducationClark Atlanta University (BA)
Texas Southern University (JD)
WebsiteHouse website

Henry Calvin Johnson Jr.[1] (born October 2, 1954) is an American lawyer and politician serving as the U.S. representative for Georgia's 4th congressional district since 2007. He is a member of the Democratic Party. The district is anchored in Atlanta's inner eastern suburbs,[2][3] including Decatur, all of Rockdale County, Lithonia, Stone Mountain, Covington and a sliver of Atlanta itself. Johnson is one of only three Buddhists to have served in the United States Congress. The others are Senator Mazie Hirono and former Representative Colleen Hanabusa, both of Hawaii.[4][5]

Life, education, and career[edit]

Johnson grew up in Washington, D.C. His father worked for the Bureau of Prisons and was the director of classifications and paroles. Up to that time, he was the highest ranking African-American in the bureau.[6]

Johnson received his B.A. degree from Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University) in 1976, is a member of Omega Psi Phi Kappa Alpha Alpha Chapter, Decatur, Georgia, and received his J.D. degree from Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law in Houston in 1979; he practiced law in Decatur, Georgia, for more than 25 years.

From 1989 to 2001, Johnson served as an associate judge of the DeKalb County magistrate's court.[7] He was elected to the DeKalb County Commission in 2000 and served from 2001 to 2006.[7]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]



In 2006, Johnson challenged Representative Cynthia McKinney in the Democratic primary for the 4th district—the real contest in this heavily Democratic, black-majority district. He forced McKinney into a runoff by holding her under 50% in the July 18 primary: McKinney got 47.1% of the vote; Johnson 44.4%, and a third candidate 8.5%.[8]

In the August 8 runoff, although there were about 8,000 more voters, McKinney got about the same number of votes as in the July primary. Johnson won with 41,178 votes (59%) to McKinney's 28,832 (41%).[9]

On October 6, 2006, Congressional Quarterly's "On Their Way", which features promising candidates soon to arrive in Washington, featured Johnson.[10]

In November, Johnson defeated the Republican nominee, Catherine Davis, with 76% of the vote—one of the largest percentages for a Democrat in a contested election, and the largest in the district's history. But he had effectively assured himself of a seat in Congress by winning the primary: with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of D+22, the 4th was the second-most Democratic district in Georgia (only the neighboring 5th, covering most of Atlanta, was more Democratic).

Johnson made aggressive use of the internet to court supporters and attract national attention to his primary challenge to McKinney. The National Journal wrote that of all Congressional candidates nationwide in 2006, "Johnson had the most unique blog strategy by far."[11] The National Journal ranked Johnson's use of the internet to defeat McKinney—and the broader trend of challengers using the blogosphere to challenge entrenched incumbents—as the third most significant blog-related story of 2006.[12] Johnson was the first Congressional candidate invited to blog[citation needed] for The Hill's Congress Blog, typically reserved for members of Congress.[13] "I'm tremendously excited about the opportunity to use this unique medium to strengthen democracy by increasing open interaction between constituents and candidates," Johnson wrote. "I hope to provide you with an inside view of this hotly-contested, high stakes runoff."


Johnson was unopposed for reelection in 2008, winning 99.9% of the vote against write-in candidates Loren Christopher Collins, Faye Coffield and Jacob Perasso.

On July 30, 2007, Johnson was the first Democratic congressman in Georgia to publicly endorse Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary.[14]


Johnson was reelected over the Republican nominee, business owner Liz Carter, receiving 131,760 of 176,467 votes, or 74.67%. Carter, who is white, made headlines during the campaign by maintaining that she had been initially barred from appearing at a candidate forum hosted by Newsmakers Journal due to her race, an assertion the forum's organizers denied.[15]


On November 4, 2012, Johnson won an uncontested general election.


On November 4, 2014, Johnson won an uncontested general election.


On November 8, 2016, Johnson won reelection over Republican Victor Armendariz.


On November 6, 2018, Johnson won reelection over Republican Joe Profit.


On November 3, 2020, Johnson won reelection over Republican Johsie Ezammudeen.


On November 8, 2022, Johnson won reelection over Republican Jonathan Chavez.


On November 18, 2008, the Democratic Caucus elected Johnson Regional Whip for the Eighth Region (GA, FL, MS, AL, U.S. Virgin Islands).[16]

Iraq War[edit]

On January 25, 2007, Johnson responded to U.S. President George W. Bush's State of the Union address by criticizing the war in Iraq, saying, "This war has proven to be one of the gravest missteps in the recent history of our country. It is time for President Bush to face the music and respond to the urgent demands of a frustrated country."[17]

On February 8, 2007, Johnson introduced his first bill: a resolution requesting that the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates take U.S. troops off of street patrol duty in Iraq. "There is no military solution for the civil war in Iraq", Johnson said. "It is time for Iraqi troops, who have been trained, to assume responsibility for patrolling their own streets. Clearly, deploying our troops this way has only escalated the number of U.S. casualties, and this must stop".[18] According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Johnson's resolution was "interesting in that it goes beyond broad directives and proposes something very specific".[19]

On March 23, 2007, Johnson voted to pass H.R. 1591[20] and attracted attention by blogging about his decision to vote for it.[21] H.R. 1591 passed the House on March 23, 2007, and the Senate on April 26, but Bush, citing[22] the Iraqi withdrawal timeline among the many particulars as being unacceptable, vetoed the bill on May 1; Congress tried to override the veto the next day but was unable to garner the votes.[23] On May 24, 2007, Johnson voted to cut funding for the Iraq War unless provisions included binding requirements upon the Iraqi government.[24] On May 25, 2007, a compromise bill, the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act, 2007, was enacted.


Johnson has been a critic of Israel's occupation policies and has not altered his stance despite criticism.[25]

On July 25, 2016, in a speech in Philadelphia before the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, Johnson said that the Israel occupation of the West Bank had created highways to which Palestinians are denied access, and which cut off Palestinian neighborhoods from each other; that walls and Israeli checkpoints restrict Palestinian freedom of movement; that Jewish people take homes when Palestinian residents miss spending a night there, and fly an Israeli flag, while Palestinians are not permitted to fly their own. He was also purported to have said Palestinian homes were stolen or destroyed. He added that "there is a steady [stream], almost like termites" and that "settlement activity has marched forwards with impunity".[26]

The Anti-Defamation League cited the words as "offensive and unhelpful", as well as tweeting "demonization, dehumanization of settlers doesn't advance peace".[27] Dov Wilker of the American Jewish Committee was reported as saying Johnson had compared Jewish Israelis to "vermin" and was using a centuries-old anti-Semitic trope.[28] Rabbi David Wolpe called it an anti-Semitic smear and questioned Johnson's apology, writing, "'I am sorry I said something stupid and anti-Semitic'—that would have been a fitting apology".[29]

Johnson apologized on Twitter for his "poor choice of words" but added that Israeli settlements were undermining the two-state solution. In a statement his office made to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he clarified that his termite metaphor referred to the corrosive process of settlement policies, "not the people".[30][31][32][33] J Street responded to Johnson's clarification by stating there should be no place for slurs, but, in their view, Johnson was speaking of the settlement enterprise, not of individuals. Media coverage, they added, should focus on opposition to settlement growth rather than on the misrepresentations by an irresponsible media outlet.[34]

Wilker held several meetings with Johnson to foster greater understanding and communication. In 2018, Johnson accepted his invitation to attend a vigil at Shearith Israel in the aftermath of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting for a national initiative called #ShowUpForShabbat.[35] In 2019, Johnson appeared at the American Jewish Committee's National Board of Governors Institute "Conversations With Congress" where the group told Johnson: "we were obviously grateful when you apologized for a previous comment a few years back that was unintentionally anti-Semitic and how you handled it so well with the Atlanta Jewish community, how can we better educate members of Congress and others about these problematic tropes."

Civil justice[edit]

Johnson has supported legislation aimed at strengthening the U.S. civil justice system. In March 2016, he and Representative John Conyers introduced legislation to protect consumers access to civil courts, the Restoring Statutory Rights Act. The legislation would "ensure that the state, federal, and constitutional rights of Americans are enforceable" and that consumers are not forced into secretive private arbitration hearings.[36]

Economic positions[edit]

Johnson voted against the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) bailout bill in November 2008. He voted for the Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the stimulus package supported by Democrats in Congress and President Obama.

In 2007, Johnson's H.Con.Res.80, a resolution calling for peaceful resolution to the Ugandan civil war between the Government of Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army, unanimously passed the House and Senate. His first successful piece of legislation, it was jointly introduced in the Senate by Senators Russ Feingold and Sam Brownback.

Joe Wilson[edit]

In 2009, Johnson demanded censure of Representative Joe Wilson after Wilson shouted "you lie" during Obama's speech to a joint session of the 111th United States Congress on September 9, 2009, about his plan for health care reform; Johnson argued that the comment had an unseen racial undertone and that, if Wilson was not formally rebuked, "we will have people with white hoods running through the countryside again".[37]

Comments on Guam tipping over[edit]

During a March 25, 2010, House Armed Services Committee hearing[38] about the U.S. military installation in Guam, Johnson said to Admiral Robert F. Willard, Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, "My fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize", to which Willard replied, "We don't anticipate that."[39][40][41] The next day, Johnson's office claimed that he was tremendously deadpan and had used a facetious metaphor to draw attention to the potential negative impact of adding 8,000 Marines and dependents to an island of 180,000 people.[42]

Effectiveness in Congress[edit]

In 2014, Johnson was named the 18th most effective Democrat in the 112th Congress according to a study by Vanderbilt University and the University of Virginia (UVA).[43] He was also ranked higher than any of his Republican colleagues from Georgia. The study judged effectiveness by looking at a lawmaker's "proven ability to advance a member's agenda items through the legislative process and into law." The scorecard looked at the number of bills a member introduced or sponsored, the bills' significance, and how far each made it in the legislative process.[44]


Johnson was a member of the United States House Judiciary Task Force on Judicial Impeachment, a task force of the House Judiciary Committee created in 2008. The task force carried out impeachment inquiries into Judges Thomas Porteous and Samuel B. Kent.[45] In 2009, Johnson was in the unanimous majority voting to adopt all four articles of impeachment against Kent. All House members participating in the vote voted in favor of each article, with the exception of one member who voted "present" on the fourth article.[46] Johnson was thereafter appointed and served as an impeachment manager (prosecutor) for Kent's impeachment trial.[47] In 2010, he also voted in the unanimous majority that approved all four articles of impeachment against Porteous.[48] He was also appointed and served as an impeachment manager for Porteous's impeachment trial.[47]

On September 24, 2019, Johnson called for the impeachment of President Donald Trump due to the Trump-Ukraine scandal.[49] This was the same day that the related impeachment inquiry was launched.[50] Johnson sat on the House Committee on the Judiciary, which played a significant role in the inquiry.[51] When the committee voted on approving articles of impeachment against Trump to be forwarded to the full House, Johnson voted in favor of approving both articles.[52] In the full House vote on the adoption of the two articles of impeachment against Trump, Johnson voted with the majority to adopt them and thereby approve the first impeachment of Trump.[53][54] In 2021, he voted for the adoption of sole article of impeachment against Trump in his second impeachment.[55]

Washingtonian "Best & Worst" of 2014[edit]

On October 5, 2014 The Washingtonian published its 15th biennial "Best & Worst of Congress" list. Johnson was voted "Most Clueless" by congressional staffers.[56]

Committee assignments[edit]

For the 118th Congress:[57]

Caucus memberships[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Johnson is married to attorney and DeKalb County Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson; they have two children.[62]

In December 2009, Johnson revealed that he had been battling Hepatitis C (HCV) for over a decade, which resulted in slow speech and a tendency to regularly get "lost in thought in the middle of a discussion".[63] He said he learned he had the disease in 1998 but did not know how he contracted it. HCV-induced liver dysfunction often leads to hepatic encephalopathy, a cause of confusion. Symptoms are often reversible with treatment.[64] The disease damaged his liver and led to thyroid problems.[63] He was treated with a combination of ribavirin and interferon at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.[63] In February 2010, Johnson successfully completed an experimental treatment for Hepatitis C, which resulted in restored mental acuity, weight gain and increased energy.[65]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Marriages, The Atlanta Constitution, January 24, 1980
  2. ^ Williams, Dave (2006-08-04). "Low-key primary turns into high-profile runoff". Gwinnett (Georgia) Daily Post. Archived from the original on 2006-08-13. Retrieved 2006-08-07.
  3. ^ Tatum, Crystal (23 August 2011). "Newton to get new congressional districts". The Newton Citizen. Newtoncitizen.com. Archived from the original on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
  4. ^ Jonathan Tilove. "New Congress brings with it religious firsts". Newhouse News Service. Archived from the original on 19 December 2006.
  5. ^ "Faith on the Hill: The Religious Composition of the 114th Congress". Pew Research Center. January 5, 2015. Retrieved September 13, 2016. The number of Buddhists in Congress fell from three to two, as Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, D-Hawaii, lost her bid for a Senate seat.
  6. ^ Jacobs, Sonji; Mae Gentry; Ernie Suggs (2006-07-20). "Hank Johnson aims to energize McKinney's foes". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved 2006-08-04. [dead link]
  7. ^ a b Land, Greg (2006-07-31). "Johnson latest DeKalb lawyer in national eye, Criminal defense lawyer and ex-magistrate judge faces incumbent McKinney in runoff". Daily Report. Archived from the original on September 26, 2007. Retrieved 2006-08-04.
  8. ^ "Georgia Election Results: Official Results of the July 18, 2006 Primary Election". Brian P. Kemp, Georgia Secretary of State. Sos.georgia.gov. 16 July 2006. Archived from the original on 22 July 2012. Retrieved 8 August 2006.
  9. ^ "Democrat U.S. House District 4". WSBTV Action News 2 Atlanta. 2006-08-08. Archived from the original on August 13, 2006. Retrieved 2006-08-08.
  10. ^ "On Their Way: Johnson Hopes to be More Effective Than McKinney". Congressional Quarterly. 2006-10-06. Archived from the original on October 27, 2006. Retrieved 20 October 2006.
  11. ^ Glover, Danny (15 August 2006). "The Online Curse Of Incumbency". National Journal. Archived from the original on August 30, 2006. Retrieved 2008-04-28.
  12. ^ Glover, Danny (12 January 2007). "Blog Power: The Top 10 Blog Stories Of 2006". National Journal. Archived from the original on January 2, 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-28.
  13. ^ Johnson, Hank (2006-07-24). "The beauty of politics in a democracy". The Hill's Congress Blog. The National Journal. Archived from the original on August 18, 2006. Retrieved 2006-08-17.
  14. ^ Galloway, Jim (30 July 2007). "Hank Johnson pitches his tent with the Obama camp". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Political Insider: blogs.ajc.com. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 29 June 2009.
  15. ^ Stirgus, Eric (10 June 2010). "Was candidate excluded because of her race?". PolitiFactGeorgia. politifact.com. Archived from the original on 21 July 2012. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
  16. ^ "Johnson (GA04) | Press Release | Rep. Hank Johnson Elected Regional Whip for GA, FL, MS, AL, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico". House.gov. 18 November 2008. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 2010-07-12.
  17. ^ "Bush speech gets mixed reaction from Georgia lawmakers". Associated Press. 2007-01-23. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved 2007-01-24.
  18. ^ "Johnson wants Iraqis to start street patrol". Gwinnett Daily Post. 2007-02-11. Archived from the original on 2007-02-18. Retrieved 2007-02-11.
  19. ^ Political Insider (2 February 2007). "An Iraq resolution without the wiggle room". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Ajc.com. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 11 February 2007.
  20. ^ The U.S. Congress Votes Database (23 March 2007). "110th Congress, 1st session, House vote 186". The Washington Post. Washingtonpost.com. Archived from the original on 27 May 2012. Retrieved 23 March 2007.
  21. ^ "Exit Strategy: Why I Supported the Iraq Accountability Act". Hank Johnson. 2007-03-23. Archived from the original on 2007-03-27. Retrieved 2007-03-23.
  22. ^ President George W. Bush. "House Document 110-31 – Veto Message On H.R. 1591". U.S. Government Printing Office. GPO.gov. Archived from the original on 16 January 2016. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
  23. ^ "H.R. 1591 (110th): U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act, 2007". GovTrack. Govtrack.us. Archived from the original on 24 July 2012. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
  24. ^ Knowlton, Brian (24 May 2007). "Bush praises Democrats' compromise on Iraq funding". The New York Times. NYTimes.com. Archived from the original on 2022-06-10. Retrieved 2007-05-30.
  25. ^ Drew Gerber,Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson Compares West Bank Settlers to ‘Termites’ The Forward 25 July 2016.
  26. ^ "There Is No Excuse for Anti-Semitic Smears" By Rabbi David Wolpe July 26, 2016 Time
  27. ^ Stoil, Rebecca Shimoni (26 July 2016). "Georgia Democrat compares Israeli settlers to burrowing termites". www.timesofisrael.com.
  28. ^ Lea Speyer, 'Major Jewish Group Says Georgia Lawmaker’s Comparison of Settlers to Termites Shows He Has Problem With Jews (VIDEO),', The Algemeiner 26 July 2016.
  29. ^ Wolpe, David. "Rabbi Wolpe: There Is No Excuse for Anti-Semitic Smears". Time. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  30. ^ 'Rep. Johnson clarifies and apologizes for remarks on Israeli settlement enterprise,' Office of Hank Johnson, Press release 26 July 2016.
  31. ^ Jessica Chasmar, Rep. Hank Johnson apologizes for comparing West Bank settlements to ‘termites’ Washington Times 26 July 2016.
  32. ^ Sommer, Allison Kaplan. "Democratic Congressman Apologizes for Comparing West Bank Settlements to Termites". Haaretz. Retrieved 26 July 2016.
  33. ^ Hallerman, Tamar (26 July 2016). "Georgia GOP calls for Hank Johnson to resign after he likens Israel's settlement policy to 'termites'". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  34. ^ ‘J Street Welcomes Rep. Johnson Clarification of Remarks,’ Archived 2016-08-01 at the Wayback Machine J Street 26 July 2016.
  35. ^ "Wilker Responds to Pittsburgh Tragedy | AJC". 19 November 2018.
  36. ^ [1]'s-rights-end-forced-arbitration
  37. ^ Isenstadt, Alex (16 September 2009). "In the race from race, Democrats rebut Jimmy Carter". Politico. Politico.Com. Archived from the original on 27 September 2012. Retrieved 2010-07-12.
  39. ^ Wilkie, Christie (31 March 2010). "Rep. Hank Johnson: Guam could 'tip over and capsize'". The Hill. Washingtonscene.thehill.com. Archived from the original on 21 June 2012. Retrieved 12 August 2010.
  40. ^ "Hank Johnson (Congress D-GA) - Warns Guam May Capsize". YouTube.com. 1 April 2010. Archived from the original on 16 June 2017. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  41. ^ "Guam Reaches the Tipping Point". Snopes. 3 April 2010. Retrieved 11 August 2017.
  42. ^ Galloway, Jim (April 1, 2010). "Your morning jolt: Hank Johnson and a 'capsizing' Guam". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Political Insider: blogs.ajc.com. Archived from the original on 23 May 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2010.
  43. ^ "The Lawmakers Homepage". Thelawmakers.org. Retrieved 18 November 2014.
  44. ^ "Study: Rep. Johnson most effective member of GA Delegation in 112th Congress". Hankjohnson.house.gov. Archived from the original on 17 November 2014. Retrieved 18 November 2014.
  46. ^ Multiple sources:
  47. ^ a b "List of Individuals Impeached by the House of Representatives". United States House of Representatives. Archived from the original on December 18, 2019. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
  48. ^ Multiple sources:
  49. ^ "Congressman Johnson Calls for Impeachment of President Trump". Congressman Hank Johnson. hankjohnson.house.gov. 24 September 2019. Retrieved 11 December 2022.
  50. ^ Bade, Rachael; DeBonis, Mike; Demirjian, Karoun (September 24, 2019). "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announces formal impeachment inquiry of Trump, says his actions were a 'betrayal of national security'". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 24, 2019.
  52. ^ "Rep. Johnson Votes in Favor of Articles of Impeachment Against President Donald J. Trump". Congressman Hank Johnson. hankjohnson.house.gov. 13 December 2019. Retrieved 11 December 2022.
  53. ^ "Roll Call 696 Roll Call 696, Bill Number: H. Res. 755, 116th Congress, 1st Session". Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives. 18 December 2019. Retrieved 11 December 2022.
  54. ^ "Roll Call 695 Roll Call 695, Bill Number: H. Res. 755, 116th Congress, 1st Session". Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives. 18 December 2019. Retrieved 11 December 2022.
  55. ^ "Roll Call 17 Roll Call 17, Bill Number: H. Res. 24, 117th Congress, 1st Session". Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives. 13 January 2021. Retrieved 11 December 2022.
  56. ^ "The Best & Worst of Congress, 2014". The Washingtonian. 6 October 2014. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  57. ^ "Henry C. "Hank" Johnson, Jr". Clerk of the United States House of Representatives. Retrieved 8 May 2023.
  58. ^ "Caucus Membrs". US House of Representatives. Retrieved January 3, 2021.
  59. ^ "Membership". Congressional Black Caucus. Retrieved 7 March 2018.
  60. ^ "Membership". Congressional Arts Caucus. Archived from the original on 12 June 2018. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  61. ^ "Members". U.S. - Japan Caucus. Retrieved 11 December 2018.
  62. ^ "Hank Johnson Official Biography". Hank Johnson Official Website. Hank Johnson. Archived from the original on 27 March 2015. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  63. ^ a b c Keefe, Bob (7 December 2009). "U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson battling hepatitis C". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Ajc.com. Archived from the original on 26 June 2012. Retrieved 31 March 2010.
  64. ^ Cash WJ, McConville P, McDermott E, McCormick PA, Callender ME, McDougall NI (January 2010). "Current concepts in the assessment and treatment of hepatic encephalopathy". QJM. 103 (1): 9–16. doi:10.1093/qjmed/hcp152. PMID 19903725.
  65. ^ Associated Press (8 July 2010). "Rep. Hank Johnson: Health is better, ready to get back to D.C." Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Ajc.com. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 31 July 2010.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Georgia's 4th congressional district

U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by United States representatives by seniority
Succeeded by