Monday, September 14, 1970
Letters to Richard Grayson from Brooklyn Congressmen Jack Murphy, Edna Kelly, Emanuel Celler, Bert Podell + Frank Brasco, 1966-1970
Here are letters we received after writing our Brooklyn Congressmen -- Jack Murphy, Edna Kelly, Emanuel Celler, Bert Podell and Frank Brasco -- between 1966 and 1970. (Click on each image a couple of times to see a larger version.)
First is a letter from Jack Murphy, who represented our district, which included all of Staten Island as well as a small slice of Brooklyn, back in the Great Society Congress of 1965-66. We were 14 years old and had written him about the work of the House Special Subcommittee to Investigate Power Failures after the November 1965 Northeast blackout. Murphy ended up in federal prison after the Abscam scandal.
Here is a letter we got in the summer of 1968 after asking Congresswoman Edna F. Kelly to support Eugene McCarthy for President at the August Chicago convention. She was an at-large delegate and mighty pissed at the party bosses because in the June primary, she'd lost her primary with Congressman Emanuel Celler. Reapportionment that created the majority-black district that elected Shirley Chisholm threw the two white members of the Brooklyn delegation into the same district. But Kelly was pretty conservative and supported Hubert Humphrey.
This is a letter we got from Congressman Manny Celler in September 1970, after we'd asked him to support our movement to draft former Attorney General Ramsey Clark as the 1972 Democratic Presidential nominee. Celler, who served in the House for 50 years and was chairman of the Judiciary Committee (and is largely responsible for the immigration act that led to vast changes in our country), was defeated by Liz Holtzman in the 1972 primary, in which we were working on the McGovern campaign. (In Summer in Brooklyn, we include our diary entry about talking to Holtzman in her Junction campaign headquarters the day after the primary.) Anyway, in 1970 Celler said he admired Ramsey Clark.
Here is a July 1968 letter from Congressman Bert Podell. We'd asked him, as we did Kelly, to support Gene McCarthy at the Chicago convention. Podell said he wasn't a delegate and gave us some blah blah blah. In 1974 Podell lost the primary to Steve Solarz, who recently passed away. The same year Podell was convicted of bribery, and like Jack Murphy, ended up in federal prison.
The last letter was from our district's congressman (the lines kept changing constantly, from one election to the next), Frank Brasco, in May 1970. We'd written to him about the war in Southeast Asia following the invasion of Cambodia and the Kent State killings. Brasco told us he was opposed to the war, and he wasn't all that liberal. He didn't run for re-election in 1974. Can you guess why? He was convicted for conspiracy to accept bribes from a reputed Mafia figure and served three months in federal prison.
As a teenager, we were pretty involved with politics and so we tended to write a lot of letters to future felons.
Why members of Congress all used blue typewriter ribbons in those days remains a mystery.