Illinois News

Former congressman Paul Findley remembered as he is laid to rest

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Aug. 14, 2019 12:01 am

JACKSONVILLE, Ill. -- As 98-year-old Paul Findley was being laid to rest Wednesday in his hometown of Jacksonville, recollections continued to surface about the former U.S. Representative of the 20th Congressional District, who died Friday.

Findley, who was initially elected in 1960 and served 22 years in Congress, was lauded for his life's work as a legislator, author and newspaperman.

Former Quincy mayor C. David Nuessen, a fellow Republican, recalls working closely with Findley to secure federal funding for a variety of projects benefiting the Quincy area.

"He was a wonderful congressman for the area," said Nuessen, who served as mayor from 1977 to 1985.

Nuessen said Findley helped secure a $6.9 million urban development action grant to bring Cummins Engine to Quincy. The money was later "recycled" to sell the former Motorola plant and create a business development loan fund.

Nuessen said Findley also played a key role in helping to bring long-awaited transportation improvements to West-Central Illinois.

"He supported us when we asked him to," Nuessen said. "We had appeals to the federal government often, and he was always supportive of the city."

Nuessen also remembers Findley as "very much a gentleman," he said. "I had a lot of respect for him and his willingness to help us when we needed him."

Findley's obituary described him as "an unyielding advocate for civil rights, an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War, and a primary author of the 1973 War Powers Act, which limits the president's authority in waging war. He served with distinction on the Agricultural and Foreign Affairs committees and was known for his support of family farmers, and as an advocate for engagement with the Arab world, particularly Palestine."

Nuessen recalled how Findley stood up for Palestinian human rights -- a position that "got to be pretty controversial for him" during his political career.

"His support for the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) and Yasser Arafat (the Palestinian leader) caused a lot of consternation in the district," Nuessen said.

Findley's position worked "to his political peril," Nuessen said, "and caused more credible candidates to run against him in the general election."

One of those candidates was Dick Durbin, a Democrat who defeated Findley in 1982. Durbin then continued to serve the 20th District until he was elected as a U.S. Senator in 1996 -- a position he still holds.

"Paul Findley was my political opponent, but he was also my friend," Durbin said in a statement.

"Over the years, our infrequent conversations increased in number and a friendship emerged. I was honored when he invited me to address his beloved alma mater, Illinois College in Jacksonville. I could not have asked for a more generous introduction," Durbin said.

"Paul Findley will be remembered as a true expert in ag policy, a small town newspaper publisher with a passion for foreign policy, and an elected official who showed exceptional courage in tackling the age old controversies in the Middle East," he added.

"With Paul Findley's passing, Illinois has lost an exceptional public servant and I have lost a friend."

Jeff Mays of Quincy, who served as a Republican member of the Illinois House of Representatives from 1980 to 1990, also has fond memories of Findley.

"My mom and dad were involved in his campaign from 1960 forward," Mays recalled. "He was just tremendously responsive, and he brought intellectual firepower to any discussion that you ever had -- political or otherwise. I remember sitting in on some of those as a kid."

Even after Mays "joined the fray" as a state representative, he said, he continued to hold Findley in high regard.

"He was just an inspiration," Mays said. "He was extraordinarily principled. I'll always admire him."

Findley served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy during World War II and afterward moved with his wife, Lucille, to Washington, D.C., where he began working as a journalist. Soon after that, the couple moved to Pittsfield, and Findley became president of the Pike Press newspaper.

Kim Curry, president of the Pike-Scott Farm Bureau, remembers Findley as "a friend of agriculture" not only in the United States but internationally.

"During his 11 terms in Congress representing the 20th Congressional District, he was a strong supporter of ag issues, trade, and sound economic policy," Curry said.

"He was accessible and welcoming to farmers visiting his Washington, D.C., office. He was a frequent visitor to our offices in Pittsfield and Winchester listening to the views and needs of area farmers."

U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood of Peoria, a Republican now serving the 18th Congressional District covering a big swath of Western Illinois, tweeted the following in the wake of Findley's death:

"Congressman Paul Findley was a son of Jacksonville, IL, a champion of ag, and fierce advocate for central IL. He committed his life to service as a Navy officer and for 22 years in Congress. He set a sterling example for elected officials and will be missed. May he rest in peace."

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