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Claude Pepper

Typed Letter Signed - 1947

Typed Letter Signed to prominent New England architect William Roger Greeley, on United States Senate letterhead, Washington DC, dated May 16, 1947. In full:

Dear Mr. Greeley:

I apologize for my tardiness in replying to your letter in which you called to my attention scurrilous remarks made by George E. Stringfellow of the Edison Company about me.

This is one of the difficulties that a man in public office has to face. I would not lend dignity to Stringfellow's unjust and unfounded remarks by making any attempt to defend them. I do thank you, however, for bringing the matter to my attention.

Kindest regards, and best wishes to you.

Always sincerely,
/s/ Claude Pepper

 Claude Pepper

Claude Denson Pepper (1900-1989) was an American politician of the Democratic Party, and a spokesman for liberalism and the elderly. In foreign policy he shifted from pro-Soviet in the 1940s to anti-Communist in the 1950s. He represented Florida in the United States Senate from 1936 to 1951, and the Miami area in the United States House of Representatives from 1963 to 1989.

Pepper lost in the Democratic primary for the United States Senate in 1934, but won in a 1936 special election following the death of Senator Duncan Fletcher. In the Senate, Pepper became a leading New Dealer and close ally of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was unusually articulate and intellectual, and, collaborating with labor unions, he was often the leader of the liberal-left forces in the Senate. His reelection in a heavily fought primary in 1938 solidified his reputation as the most prominent liberal in Congress. He was re-elected in 1944, but lost his bid for a third full term in 1950 by a margin of over 60,000 votes.

In 1962 Pepper was elected to the United States House of Representatives from a liberal district around Miami and Miami Beach, becoming one of very few former United States Senators in modern times (the only other example being James Wolcott Wadsworth Jr.) to be elected to the House after their Senate careers. He remained there until his death in 1989, rising to chair of the powerful Rules Committee in 1983. At this stage Pepper was staunchly anti-Communist and anti-Castro; he supported aid to the Nicaraguan "Contra" rebels.

In the early 1970s, Pepper chaired the Joint House-Senate Committee on Crime; then, in 1977, he became chair of the new House Select Committee on Aging, which became his base as he emerged as the nation's foremost spokesman for the elderly, especially regarding Social Security programs. He succeeded in strengthening the Medicare. In the 1980s he worked with Alan Greenspan in a major reform of the Social Security system that maintained its solvency by slowly raising the retirement age, thus cutting benefits for workers retiring in their mid-60s, and in 1986 he obtained the passage of a federal law that abolished most mandatory retirement ages.

Pepper served in Congress longer than any other Floridian and became known as the "grand old man of Florida politics". He was featured on the cover of Time Magazine in 1938 and 1983. Republicans often joked that he and Tip O'Neill were the only Democrats who really drove President Reagan crazy. When he died, his body lay in state for two days under the Rotunda of the United States Capitol; he was the 26th American so honored.


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