Celler, Emanuel, 1888-1981
Emanuel Celler (May 6, 1888 – January 15, 1981) was an American lawyer and politician. A member of the Democratic Party, he representred Brooklyn and Queens in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1923 to 1973, representing the 10th (1923-1945, 1963-1973), 15th (1945-1953), and 11th (1953-1963) congressional districts. He is the longest-serving member ever of the United States Congress from the state of New York.
Born in Brooklyn, he graduated from Boys High School there before earning B.A. and LL.B. degrees from Columbia University, passing the bar and practicing law in New York City. During World War I, Celler worked as a government appeal agent on the draft board. In 1922, Celler was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from the Brooklyn and Queens-based 10th congressional district. Celler made his first important speech on the House floor during consideration of the Johnson–Reed Immigration Act of 1924. Three years earlier, Congress had imposed a quota that limited immigration for persons of any nationality to 3 percent of that nationality present in the United States in 1910, with an annual admission limit of 356,000 immigrants. This national origin system was structured to preserve the ethnic and religious identity of the United States by reducing immigration from Eastern and Southern Europe, thereby excluding many Jews, Catholics, among others. Celler was vehemently opposed to the Johnson-Reed Act, which passed the isolationist Congress and was signed into law. Celler had found his cause and for the next four decades he vigorously spoke out in favor of eliminating the national origin quotas as a basis for immigration restriction.
In the 1940s, Celler opposed both the isolationists and the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration by forcefully advocating that the United States relax immigration laws on an emergency basis to rescue those fleeing the Holocaust. In 1943, he called President Roosevelt's immigration policy "cold and cruel" and blasted the "glacier-like attitude" of the State Department. As Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee from 1949 to 1973 (except for a break from 1953–55 when the Republicans controlled the House), Celler was involved in drafting and passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In January 1965, Celler proposed in the House of Representatives the Twenty-fifth Amendment, which clarifies an ambiguous provision of the Constitution regarding succession to the presidency. Also in 1965, he proposed and steered to passage the Hart-Celler Act, which eliminated national origins as a consideration for immigration. This was the culminating moment in Celler's 41-year fight to overcome restriction on immigration to the United States based on national origin. The US Gun Control Act of 1968 directly evolved from Celler's Bill H.R. 17735.
In June 1972, Celler (then the House of Representatives' most senior member) unexpectedly lost the Democratic primary in the 16th congressional district to a somewhat more liberal Democrat, attorney Elizabeth Holtzman, who eked out a 635-vote victory over Celler, based chiefly on Celler's opposition to feminism and the Equal Rights Amendment. At the time, Celler was the most senior congressman ever to have been ousted in a primary. Even though Celler remained on the ballot as the candidate of the Liberal Party, he decided not to campaign and endorsed Holtzman in September. This allowed Holtzman to win the general election that November with 66% of the vote, versus 23% for her Republican opponent. Celler received 7%.
In his final years, Celler remained busy, speaking about immigration and myriad other topics that occupied his half-century of public service. During the Watergate scandal, he was a frequent guest on television and radio programs, discussing the hearings and the position of Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which he held for a record number of years. If not for his electoral loss a few months before, Celler, not Peter Rodino of New Jersey, would have been conducting the hearings. Celler was on good terms with Richard Nixon and in the early part of the hearings indicated that he would have taken a less adversarial position than Rodino. He died in his native Brooklyn and was interred in Mount Neboh Cemetery in Cypress Hills, New York.
|Place Name||Admin Code||Country|
|New York City||NY||US|
|New York City||NY||US|
|Trusts, Industrial--United States|
|Banks and banking--United States|
|Legislators--New York (State)|
|Civil rights--United States|
|Internal security--United States|
|Emigration and immigration law--United States|
|Communication and traffic--United States|
|Religion in the public schools--United States|
|Student movements--United States|
|Public welfare--United States|
|Busing for school integration--United States|
|Petroleum industry and trade--United States|
|Representatives, U.S. Congress--New York (State)|