January 29, 2010

ON THE DEATH OF FORMER SENATOR CHARLES MATHIAS

Mr. CARDIN:   Mr. President, I would like to take a moment to talk about former Senator Charles "Mac" Mathias, who represented Maryland in the U.S. Senate for three terms and whose passing on Monday was a real loss for Maryland and our nation.

 

Mac Mathias was a true statesman in the best sense of the word.   He became a voice for those who had no voice, he fought to better conditions for working people, and he took bold, principled stands that were not always popular with prevailing political sentiment.

 

Mac Mathias was one of my heroes, and I considered him a friend and advisor.   He was first elected to the Congress in 1960 and he lived through some of the most turbulent times of the 20 th Century, including the struggle for civil rights, the Vietnam War, and the Watergate scandal.

 

Mac's strong, principled stands garnered respected from both sides of the aisle, prompting then-Majority Leader Mike Mansfield (D-MT) to characterize Mac as "the conscience of the Senate."

 

Mac Mathias was often at odds with his own party. In 1970, for instance, he denounced the U.S. military incursion into Laos, condemned the Watergate scandal, and worked tirelessly for campaign finance reform.   His outspokenness earned him a place on President Nixon's enemies list.

Mac was an important supporter of the civil rights movement, helping to craft an open-housing law.   In 1965, he traveled to Selma, Alabama, to visit Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was then in jail.   In 1986, at a farewell party for Senator Mathias at the Baltimore Convention Center, Benjamin L. Hooks, then president of the NAACP said: "I say thank God for Mac Mathias."

 

Mac was an outstanding advocate for Maryland in Congress.   Proud of his Frederick roots and committed to the environment, he proposed legislation to protect the Chesapeake Bay, Antietam National Battlefield, and Assateague Island.   He also was the primary sponsor of the bill that created the C&O Canal National Historical Park.

 

Mac was a tireless advocate for fair elections. In the 110 th Congress, he traveled to Washington to help lobby fellow Republicans for a bill to combat election fraud. He was a leader for campaign finance reform - a subject Congress will have to revisit in the wake of the majority's decision last week in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

 

He once remarked that "no problem confronting our nation today is greater than that of our steadily eroding confidence in our political system." He was so right.   He understood that democracy is dependent on inclusion and on citizens who participate in the process and who have confidence that their views will be heard and fairly considered.

 

Today, I urge my colleagues to pause for a moment to remember a gentleman from Maryland who cared deeply for our nation and understood that our democracy depends on strong leaders who have courage, intelligence, and integrity. Mac Mathias was such a leader.

 

Thank you.