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Remembering a Congressman

To the editor:

It is with a sense of sadness that I learned of the death of Tom Railsback, former Illinois congressman. I had the honor of getting to know him and benefiting from his support.

Early in 1972, as a new college graduate, I headed to Washington, D.C. looking for a career in government. Full of idealism, and no doubt naive, I went door to door in the Senate and House of Representative Offices, resume in hand, looking to join a congressional staff. One of my first stops was to Congressman Railsback’s office. He was the congressman from the district my college was in. Tom graciously met with me and listened to my plea. He informed me that he did not have a position and that, given my interests, I would be better suited in a position with the other party. Then he made an offer that helped start my career. He was happy to have me use his office as a home base and his staff would take phone calls for me.

I got a job with a senator some weeks later. Tom was happy for me and urged me to stay in touch. From time to time we would have brief encounters and talk of the business of the day. Watergate and the ultimate impeachment of Richard Nixon dominated much of the attention. Tom would share that he was a lifelong Republican and a friend of Nixon, and admired many of the things Nixon did for him and the country. He also shared that he was deeply troubled by the president’s actions. Ultimately, Congressman Railsback and a coalition of Democrats and Republicans drafted articles of impeachment. Mr. Railsback chose the nation and the Constitution over party.

I celebrate the kindness, service and dedication of Tom Railsback. I never got to thank him. I wish that his example would be embraced by all in office and seeking office.

A generation earlier, Joseph Welsh confronted then-Sen. Joseph McCarthy and said, “Have you no sense of decency?” Tom Railsback had and lived with a sense of decency. Let’s hope that the current members of congress can find their sense of decency in all they do.

Charles VanAnden

Saranac Lake

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