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 []

                              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 
       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 
       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 
       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.