Jump to content

Sidney R. Yates

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sidney R. Yates
Yates in 1983
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 9th district
In office
January 3, 1965 – January 3, 1999
Preceded byEdward R. Finnegan
Succeeded byJan Schakowsky
In office
January 3, 1949 – January 3, 1963
Preceded byRobert Twyman
Succeeded byEdward R. Finnegan
Personal details
Born(1909-08-27)August 27, 1909
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
DiedOctober 5, 2000(2000-10-05) (aged 91)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Resting placeMemorial Park Cemetery, Skokie, Illinois
Political partyDemocratic
SpouseAdeline Holleb (1937–2002)
ChildrenStephen R. Yates (1940–2000)
Alma materUniversity of Chicago (B Ph, JD)
Military service
AllegianceUnited States
Branch/serviceUnited States Navy
Years of service1944–1946
UnitJudge Advocate General's Corps
Battles/warsWorld War II

Sidney Richard Yates (August 27, 1909 – October 5, 2000) was an American politician from the state of Illinois. A native of Chicago, he graduated from Lake View High School in 1928. He received bachelor's (1931) and law (1933) degrees from the University of Chicago, was admitted to the bar, and practiced law in Chicago. In addition to working as an attorney, Yates also played semiprofessional basketball in the 1930s. He gained his initial experience in government as an attorney for the state bank receiver (1935–1937), and an assistant state attorney general specializing in traction railroads for the Illinois Commerce Commission (1937–1940). During World War II, Yates served in the United States Navy for two years (1944–1946) as an attorney based in Washington, D.C.

In 1948, Yates was elected to Congress, and he served from 1949 to 1963. After an unsuccessful run against Everett Dirksen for the United States Senate in 1962, in 1964 Yates was again elected to the House. He served from 1965 to 1999, and did not run for reelection in 1998. He was a longtime member of the House Appropriations Committee, where he became known for staunch U.S. support of Israel, and federal funding for parks, historical conservation, and the arts. Yates was also an advocate for several liberal causes, including opposition to discrimination based on age. At the time he concluded his service, he was third oldest person to ever serve in the House (age 89) behind Charles Manly Stedman and Isaac R. Sherwood, and one of the longest-tenured members in the history of Congress (total House service of 48 years).

Yates died in Washington in 2000. He was buried at Memorial Park Cemetery in Skokie, Illinois.

Early life


Yates was born in Chicago, Illinois, the youngest of six children of Lithuanian Jewish immigrants Louis and Ida Yates.[1] He grew up in Chicago and was an office boy at Variety's Chicago office during the 1920s.[2] He graduated from the University of Chicago in 1931 with a Bachelor of Philosophy degree[3] and received a Juris Doctor from the University of Chicago Law School in 1933.[4] While in college, Yates joined the Pi Lambda Phi fraternity.[5] He also played basketball, and was selected for All Big Ten honors.[6] In the mid-1930s, he played semiprofessional basketball and practiced law.[7] Yates was an attorney for the Illinois state bank receiver from 1935 to 1937.[8] From 1937 to 1940 he was an assistant state attorney general attached to the Illinois Commerce Commission as a traction attorney.[8][a] He served in the United States Navy during World War II, assigned as an attorney for the Bureau of Ships in Washington, DC.[8]

Career in Congress


From 1949 to 1963 and 1965 to 1999, Yates served in the House of Representatives as a Democrat. Although the boundaries of his district changed over the years, it was always anchored in the Chicago lakefront. From the 1970s onward, Chicago's declining population resulted in the district spilling into the northern suburbs. By the time he retired, his district also included Evanston, Des Plaines, Glenview, Rosemont and Skokie.

Yates was one of the first congressmen to speak out against age discrimination, arguing in 1951 that mandatory retirement of workers was wrong and deprived older people of their right to lead a proud, productive and independent life.

During the late 1950s, after a series of lurid magazine articles and Hollywood films helped to sensationalize youth gangs and violence, Yates called for legislation to ban automatic-opening or switchblade knives, melodramatically proclaiming that "Vicious fantasies of omnipotence, idolatry...barbaric and sadistic atrocities, and monstrous violations of accepted values spring from the cult of the weapon, and the switchblade knife is included in this. Minus switchblade knives and the distorted feeling of power they beget—power that is swaggering, reckless, and itching to express itself in violence—our delinquent adolescents would be shorn of one of their most potent means of incitement to crime."[10][11][12][13] The ban on switchblade knives was eventually enacted into law as the Switchblade Knife Act of 1958.[12] Rep. Yates and other congressmen supporting the Switchblade Knife Act believed that by stopping the importation and interstate sales of automatic knives (effectively halting sales of new switchblades), the law would reduce youth gang violence by blocking access to what had become a symbolic weapon.[10][12][14] However, while switchblade imports, domestic production, and sales to lawful owners soon ended, later legislative research demonstrated that youth gang violence rates had in fact rapidly increased, as gang members began using firearms instead of knives.[15]

Yates was an unsuccessful candidate for the United States Senate in 1962 against Republican incumbent and Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen. He briefly served at the United Nations before returning to the House after the 1964 election. Fellow Democrat Edward Finnegan won Yates' old seat after his former district was merged with the 9th, but Chicago machine bosses persuaded him to accept a circuit judgeship in return for letting Yates take his old seat back. Yates served on the Appropriations Committee throughout his career and chaired the Interior Subcommittee from 1975 to 1995. On this committee he supported environmental programs and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Yates remained on good terms with both liberal reformers and machine politicians in Chicago throughout his career. He also served on the Foreign Operations subcommittee and was a strong advocate of American support for Israel. He worked hand-in-hand with his chief of staff, Mary Bain, to preserve federal funding for the arts and for Natural Heritage Preservation programs, and to establish the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

In 1993, he was presented with the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Clinton and in 1997 he received the Four Freedoms Award for Freedom of Speech[16] In 1999, the Auditors Building in Washington, DC, was renamed the Sidney Yates Building in his honor.[17]

He is the longest-serving member ever of the United States House of Representatives from the state of Illinois.[18] He holds the record as the 10th longest-serving member in the history of the US Congress, and also has the longest tenure of all members whose time in Congress included a break in service.

Death and burial


Yates died in Washington, D.C., on October 5, 2000. He was buried at Memorial Park Cemetery in Skokie, Illinois.



Yates was married to Adeline Holleb (1914–2002) for 65 years. They were the parents of Stephen R. Yates (1940–2000), who served as an Illinois circuit court judge.

His brother Charles was a talent agent for Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Martha Raye.[2]

See also



  1. ^ "Traction" refers the Chicago public transit system, which included trains and trolleys powered by electric traction motors.[9]


  1. ^ "United States Census, 1930", FamilySearch, retrieved March 24, 2018
  2. ^ a b "Sid Yates, Ex-Office Boy For Variety's Freeman, Ill. Candidate for Senate". Variety. April 25, 1962. p. 1.
  3. ^ "Degrees Await 63 North Siders at U. of Chicago". Chicago Tribune. Chicago, IL. June 14, 1931. p. Part 7, Page 3 – via Newspapers.com.
  4. ^ U.S. Congress (1959). Official Congressional Directory. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office. p. 40 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ The Frater of Pi Lambda Phi. Danbury, CT: Pi Lambda Phi Fraternity. 1935. p. 26 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ The International Teamster. Vol. 46. Washington, DC: International Brotherhood of Teamsters. 1948. p. 97 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ Stout, David (October 8, 2000). "Sidney R. Yates Dies at 91; Congressman Supported Arts". The New York Times. New York, NY.
  8. ^ a b c Pearson, Richard (October 7, 2000). "Longtime Congressman Sidney Yates Dies". Washington Post. Washington, DC.
  9. ^ Dorf, Michael C.; Van Dusen, George (2019). Clear it with Sid!. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press. p. 59. ISBN 978-0-2520-5128-9.
  10. ^ a b Levine, Bernard R., The Switchblade Menace, OKCA Newsletter (1993)
  11. ^ Knife World (August 1990)
  12. ^ a b c Switchblade Knives: Hearing, House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, Eighty-fifth Congress, Minutes of the Second Session, April 17, 1958
  13. ^ Blade Magazine, 28 Jan 2019
  14. ^ Knife World Magazine (August 1990)
  15. ^ Clark, Charles S., Youth Gangs Worsening Violence Prompts Crackdowns and Community Mobilization, Congressional Quarterly 1, 11 October 1991, pp. 753–776
  16. ^ "Four Freedoms Awards | Roosevelt Institute". Archived from the original on 2015-03-25. Retrieved 2015-05-13.
  17. ^ Histories of the USDA Headquarters Complex Buildings Archived 2011-07-21 at the Wayback Machine, U.S. Department of Agriculture Departmental Management website, accessed July 28, 2011
  18. ^ Crass, Scott (2015). Statesmen and Mischief Makers. Bloomington, IN: Xlibris. p. 432. ISBN 978-1-5144-0384-6 – via Google Books.
Party political offices
Preceded by
W. Richard Stengel
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Illinois
(Class 3)

Succeeded by
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 9th congressional district

January 3, 1949 – January 3, 1963
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 9th congressional district

January 3, 1965 – January 3, 1999
Succeeded by