February 26, 2002 - Issue: Vol. 148, No. 17 — Daily Edition107th Congress (2001 - 2002) - 2nd Session
CALVIN JAMES; Congressional Record Vol. 148, No. 17
(Senate - February 26, 2002)
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[Page S1203] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] CALVIN JAMES
Mr. ROBERTS. Mr. President, recently our State of Kansas lost a giant within our political system with the unexpected passing of our Republican National Committeeman, Calvin James of Jewell, KS. All those involved in public service in Kansas, regardless of party, mourn his loss. Calvin James was a textbook study in the pursuit of politics for the public good, not personal gain I endeavored to capture what Cal James has meant to his hometown, his State, and our nation and to his family and friends with an article and eulogy published in the Salina Journal last week. I extend the thoughts, prayers and best wishes of Calvin's many friends to Betty, his wife, and to his daughter Susan and her family. I ask the article be printed in the Record. The article follows: With the death last week of Republican National Committeeman Calvin James, Jewell, Kansas lost a giant of politics. He is remembered not only for what is good about Kansas politics, but also for what is great about Kansas communities. For me, Calvin James was a mentor, a friend, my strongest supporter and my sharpest critic. He smoothed the ups and downs of winning and losing. He set a high standard, but he was gentle in reaching for it. At his funeral Saturday, a warm February afternoon, the Methodist Church in Jewell overflowed with friends and family from across the state. Among those attending were a sitting governor and two former governors, two U.S. Senators, a Congressman, the Speaker of the House, the Secretary of State, legislators and political officials--a virtual who's who of the contemporary Kansas GOP. It was the kind of gathering that happens only rarely in rural communities. It signifies the esteem in which Calvin James was held statewide. Calvin was remembered for commitment to family, to his community and to his state. Quietly, behind the scene with his yellow legal pad, Calvin was a key advisor to governors, senators and congressmen. He believed strongly in the two- party political system and in the role political parties play in good government. In an era of impersonal media campaigns, he was a people politician. He scouted candidates and recruited precinct committee men and committee women the old fashioned way--by getting in his car and driving from county seat to county seat and talking to people up and down main street. He worked tirelessly in their campaigns and, once elected, he expected them to remain accountable to grassroots Kansas. Calvin knew that to get the votes, you first had to count the votes. He was good at it. In his own race for National Committeeman he had the final vote counted exactly--the day before it was taken. He believed in consensus, in detail and in organizations well run. As Republican Chairman in the first Congressional District of Western and Central Kansas, Calvin made the rounds by car and by phone every two years to build consensus ahead of party elections, which he expected to operate smoothly. A few years ago in Great Bend, he was challenged by a delegate with different ideas: ``This appears to be a railroad operation,'' the delegate said. ``If it is, I am the conductor,'' Calvin retorted. It is a direct result of Calvin's work over three decades that First District Republicans are more activist, more interested and more involved than their counterparts in other parts of the state. Calvin was born in Jewell and he died there. He left only twice, once as a young man for a job in a larger Kansas community and once to serve in the Army in Korea. On that first job, in a drug store, African Americans were not to be served at the counter. Outraged, Calvin did so anyway--then walked out before he could be fired. Calvin was once asked if he had considered moving to a larger community. ``Why?'' he answered, ``I have everything I need here.'' ``Everything'' especially included his wife, Betty, and daughter, Susan. He believed in the worth of Jewell and his family and neighbors and he worked to make the place better. From the school board to the church board, he applied the same energy he applied to politics. The first stop for every new Methodist minister in Jewell was Calvin James, who ``educated'' him as to the proper way to draft, present and implement a church budget in order to build consensus and lower controversy. He brought government officials to Jewell and Beloit to ``educate'' them on the need for low income housing, elderly housing, rural water infrastructure, highways and, lately, broadband internet capability. He built James Clothing, with stores in Jewell and Beloit, selling in recent years to his younger partner and protege. He was a self-described ``rag merchant.'' In retail clothing as in retail politics, there are certain individuals you would rather not see walk through the front door. Those are the folks, Calvin often said, who you must ``smother with the milk of human kindness'' in order to make the sale, secure the vote, cement the support. Calvin James is a textbook study in the pursuit of politics for the public good, not personal gain. He did not get rich at it. He did not use his many connections to those in politics to accrue personal power. Rather, he used it for the benefit of his community, his state and his nation. That is a legacy worth renewing as the torch of political leadership passes to a new generation. ____________________