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Sunday, July 24, 2016

DEATH | July 23, 1996–Ham Fish

Rep. Ham Fish, Jr.
On the 20th anniversary of his, the Poughkeepsie Journal posted the following tribute to Congressman Hamilton Fish. It was forwarded by his publisher son. (Fish's NY Times obit is here.)
Where have you gone, Ham Fish? 
Flamboyant? No.
Self-promoter? No.
Loud? No.
Public-service driven? Yes.
Consensus-builder? Yes.
Impeccable integrity? Yes
There was always a regal sense about Ham Fish, Jr. He was a congressman. A statesman. A true champion of the people he served for 26 years in the House of Representatives. 
He was from Millbrook, but also called Washington, D.C. his home. That was only appropriate given that his family’s roots in service to America dated to the Revolutionary War.
July 23 marked the 20th anniversary of Fish’s 1996 death from cancer. Too many folks today know Fish’s name only because the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge was renamed in his family’s honor. That’s appropriate because the enduring reputation of Hamilton Fish Jr. — the fourth Hamilton Fish — was of a public servant who connected others, who spanned differences, who showed a pathway. He was a Republican known as a moderate. He worked issues first, party notwithstanding. Cross that political aisle to get something done? Welcome them to your side? You bet.
And Fish, scion of one of New York state's most enduring political dynasties, did it without a shred of the bluster and grandstanding many politicians rely on today. He inspired confidence by doing his job and doing it well, not by telling you how well he did his job.
He’d call or stop in at the Poughkeepsie Journal on occasion, and unfailingly provided a distinguished presence. His voice was firm. His mannerisms confident. His earnestness clear.
That was the consensus about Fish’s work during Watergate, when he served on the House Judiciary Committee and cast a significant GOP vote to impeach President Richard Nixon in 1974. “Colleagues from both sides of the aisle said the moment epitomized Fish’s high ethics and demonstrated his commitment to the democratic process,” the Journal reported in the news story about his death.
Fish also was the chief Republican sponsor of the Americans With Disabilities Act in 1990, mandating parity for those often denied it. He was key in getting laws passed to block discrimination against women and minorities; to fight hate crimes; to ensure fair housing tenets; and to fight apartheid. And that’s just the start of the list.
And those family roots? His great-great grandfather, Nicholas Fish, fought in the Revolutionary War with George Washington. Nicholas Fish’s son, Hamilton Fish, joined Congress in 1842 before becoming New York’s governor. Why name his son Hamilton? It was in honor of his good friend, Alexander Hamilton.
The second Hamilton Fish became a member of Congress in 1909. The third Hamilton Fish, who died in 1991, was in Congress from 1921 to 1945 and was a Republican foil of fellow Dutchess resident Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Newburgh-Beacon Bridge naming honors contributions of every Hamilton Fish.
As a highly contentious presidential race revs up, those who remember Ham Fish wonder if civility — Hamilton Fish Jr.-style civility and accomplishment — can ever again rule the day."