Celler, Emanuel, 1888-1981

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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.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
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creatorOf Emanuel Celler Papers, 1924-1973, (bulk 1945-1973) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
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referencedIn Reid, Ogden R. (Ogden Rogers), 1925-. Ogden Rogers Reid papers, 1925-1982 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn American League for an Undivided Ireland. Records, 1947-1963, 1947-1958 (bulk) Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
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referencedIn Socialist Party of the United States of America. Records, 1909-1965. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
creatorOf WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.). Collection of broadcast recordings [sound recording], 1938-1970. New York Public Library System, NYPL
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referencedIn Minow, Newton N., 1926-. Papers, 1954-1965. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn Edwin Montefiore Borchard papers, 1910-1950 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
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creatorOf Page, Thomas Walker, 1866-1937. Papers of Thomas Walker Page [manuscript], 1906-1937. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Celler, Emanuel, 1888-1981. Papers of Emanuel Celler, 1924-1973 (bulk 1945-1973). Library of Congress
referencedIn Herbert Brownell Jr. Additional Papers. 1897 - 1996. Photographs Dwight D. Eisenhower Library
referencedIn Arthur E. Sutherland papers Harvard Law School Library Langdell Hall Cambridge, MA 02138
referencedIn League of Women Voters of the City of New York. League of Women Voters of the City of New York records, 1919-1979. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Glueck, Sheldon, 1896-1990. Papers, 1916-1972 Harvard Law School Library Langdell Hall Cambridge, MA 02138
referencedIn American Medical Association. Dept. of Investigation. Records. Patents and Trademarks-Patients' Aid Society (inclusive), 1900-1964. American Medical Association,James S. Todd Memorial Library
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referencedIn National Organization for Women. Records, 1959-2002 (inclusive), 1966-1988 (bulk). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Chester Bowles papers, 1924-1982 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn Sara Greenspan Theatre Guild files, 1925-1969 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
referencedIn Ludlow mss., 1898-1948 Lilly Library (Indiana University, Bloomington)
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creatorOf WNYC (Radio Station : New York, N.Y.). WNYC collection of broadcast recordings [sound recording], 1938-1970. Municipal Reference & Res Center/Doris
creatorOf Mitford, Jessica, 1917-1996. Papers, 1949-1973 (bulk 1961-1973). Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
correspondedWith Acheson, Dean, 1893-1971 person
associatedWith Albert, Carl Bert, 1908-2000. person
associatedWith American League for an Undivided Ireland. corporateBody
associatedWith American Medical Association. Dept. of Investigation. corporateBody
correspondedWith Barkley, Alben William, 1877-1956 person
correspondedWith Ben-Gurion, David, 1886-1973 person
associatedWith Borchard, Edwin Montefiore, 1884-1951. person
associatedWith Boucher, Anthony, 1911-1968 person
associatedWith Bowles, Chester, 1901-1986. person
correspondedWith Brant, Irving, 1885-1976. person
associatedWith Browder, Earl, 1891-1973 person
associatedWith Byrd, Harry Flood, 1887-1966. person
alumnusOrAlumnaOf Columbia University corporateBody
alumnusOrAlumnaOf Columbia University. School of Law. corporateBody
correspondedWith Couve de Murville, Maurice, 1907-1999 person
associatedWith Crosser, Robert, 1874-1957. person
associatedWith DeOrsey, Leo, unknown. person
correspondedWith Douglas, William O. (William Orville), 1898-1980 person
correspondedWith Eaton, Cyrus Stephen, 1883-1979 person
correspondedWith Eban, Abba Solomon, 1915-2002 person
correspondedWith Eshkol, Levi, 1895-1969 person
correspondedWith Farrell, James T. (James Thomas), 1904-1979 person
associatedWith Ford, William D. (William David), 1927- person
associatedWith Former Members of Congress, Inc. (U.S.) corporateBody
correspondedWith Fortas, Abe person
associatedWith FREDA KIRCHWEY, 1893-1976 person
associatedWith Frick, Ford, 1894 - 1978. person
associatedWith Glueck, Sheldon, 1896- person
correspondedWith Granik, Theodore, 1907-1970 person
associatedWith Greenspan, Sara, 1894-1968. person
correspondedWith Hand, Learned, 1872-1961 person
associatedWith Harriman, W. Averell (William Averell), 1891-1986. person
associatedWith Hoover, J. Edgar (John Edgar), 1895-1972. person
associatedWith Hopkins, Harry L. (Harry Lloyd), 1890-1946. person
associatedWith Hull, Cordell, 1871-1955. person
associatedWith Humphrey, Hubert H. (Hubert Horatio), 1911-1978. person
associatedWith Ickes, Harold L. (Harold LeClair), 1874-1952. person
correspondedWith Johnson, Frank M. (Frank Minis), 1918-1999. person
correspondedWith Johnson, Lyndon B. (Lyndon Baines), 1908-1973 person
associatedWith Kefauver, Estes, 1903-1963. person
correspondedWith Kennan, George F. (George Frost), 1904-2005 person
associatedWith Kirchwey, Freda. person
associatedWith Knowland, William F. (William Fife), 1908-1974. person
correspondedWith Kollek, Teddy, 1911-2007 person
associatedWith La Guardia, Fiorello H. (Fiorello Henry), 1882-1947. person
associatedWith Lattimore, Owen, 1900-1989. person
associatedWith League of Women Voters of the City of New York. corporateBody
associatedWith Lehman, Herbert H. (Herbert Henry), 1878-1963. person
correspondedWith Lindsay, John V. (John Vliet) person
associatedWith Ludlow, Louis, 1873-1950 person
associatedWith Major League Baseball. corporateBody
correspondedWith Mann, Arthur, 1901-1963. person
associatedWith Marshall, Lenore, 1897-1971. person
associatedWith Matthews, J. B. (Joseph Brown), 1894-1966 person
associatedWith McCarran, Pat, 1876-1954 person
associatedWith McCarthy, Joseph, 1908-1957 person
correspondedWith McCormack, John W., 1891-1980 person
correspondedWith McGovern, George S. (George Stanley), 1922-2012 person
associatedWith Messersmith, George S., (George Strausser), 1883-1960 person
associatedWith Mills, Wilbur D. (Wilbur Daigh), 1909-1992. person
associatedWith Minow, Newton N., 1926-. person
associatedWith Mitford, Jessica, 1917-1996. person
associatedWith National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues. corporateBody
associatedWith National Organization for Women. corporateBody
correspondedWith Nation (New York, N.Y. : 1865). corporateBody
correspondedWith Nehru, Jawaharlal, 1889-1964 person
associatedWith New York Times Company corporateBody
associatedWith Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994. person
associatedWith Page, Thomas Walker, 1866-1937. person
correspondedWith Pandit, Vijaya Lakshmi, 1900-1990 person
associatedWith Paul A. Freund person
associatedWith Pell, Herbert Claiborne, 1884-1961. person
associatedWith Pool, David de Sola, 1885-1970. person
associatedWith Pound, Roscoe, 1870-1964 person
associatedWith Powell, Adam Clayton, 1908-1972 person
associatedWith Proctor, Henry Hugh, 1868-1933. person
associatedWith Raphael Lemkin, 1900-1959 person
associatedWith Rayburn, Sam, 1882-1961 person
associatedWith Reid, Ogden R. (Ogden Rogers), 1925- person
correspondedWith Rickover, Hyman George person
associatedWith Rockefeller, Nelson A. (Nelson Aldrich), 1908-1979. person
associatedWith Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1914-1988. person
associatedWith Ruthven, Alexander Grant, 1882- person
associatedWith Simmons, Harry, 1907 - 1998. person
associatedWith Socialist Party of the United States of America. corporateBody
correspondedWith Stanton, Frank, 1908-2006 person
correspondedWith Stevenson, Adlai E. (Adlai Ewing), 1900-1965 person
associatedWith Stimson, Henry L. (Henry Lewis), 1867-1950. person
associatedWith St. John's University (New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Sutherland, Arthur E., 1902-1973 person
associatedWith Taft, Robert A. (Robert Alphonso), 1889-1953. person
correspondedWith Thomas, Norman, 1884-1968 person
associatedWith Trautman, George, 1890 - 1963. person
associatedWith Truman, Harry S., 1884-1972. person
memberOf United States. Congress. House. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Congress. House. Committee on the Judiciary. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Congress. House. Committee on the Judiciary. Subcommittee No. 5. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Congress. House. Committee on Un-American Activities. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952. corporateBody
associatedWith Vaad Hatzala (New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Vidal, Gore, 1925- person
correspondedWith Villard, Oswald Garrison, 1872-1949 person
associatedWith Wagner, Robert F. (Robert Ferdinand), 1877-1953. person
associatedWith Wallace, Henry A. (Henry Agard), 1888-1965. person
associatedWith Wall, Joseph, person
associatedWith Weinberger, Harry, 1888- person
associatedWith Weston, Harold, 1894-1972 person
correspondedWith Wilkins, Roy, 1901-1981 person
associatedWith WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith World Jewish Congress corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
New York City NY US
New York City NY US
Subject
Trusts, Industrial--United States
Banks and banking--United States
Legislators--New York (State)
Zionism
Civil rights--United States
Antitrust law
Internal security--United States
Baseball--United States
Segregation--United States
Politicians
Civil rights
Emigration and immigration law--United States
Crime--United States
Refugees--United States
International trade
Oligopolies--United States
Draft--United States
Oligopolies
Jews--United States
Communication and traffic--United States
Religion in the public schools--United States
Student movements--United States
Monopolies
Public welfare--United States
Monopolies--United States
Poverty--United States
Presidents--Disability--United States
Busing for school integration--United States
Legislators--Interviews
Internal security
Baseball
Petroleum industry and trade--United States
Security, International
Witnesses
Pollution--United States
Sports--United States
Occupation
Representatives, U.S. Congress--New York (State)
Lawyers
Activity

Person

Birth 1888-05-06

Death 1981-01-15

Male

Americans

English

Information

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