COMMUNITY

John Brademas, first Greek-American congressman, dies

TOM ELLIS

TAGS: Obituary

John Brademas, a distinguished figure of the Greek diaspora in the United States, former member of the US House of Representatives and leading member of the Democratic Party, died on July 11. He was 89.

From 1959 to 1981, Brademas was elected 11 times as an Indiana representative, while he also served as majority whip from 1977 to 1981, the highest position ever held by a Greek American at the House of Representatives.

Along with Michael Dukakis, former Massachusetts governor and Democratic US presidential candidate in 1988, and former Maryland senator Paul Sarbanes, Brademas reached the highest echelons of US politics, leaving his personal mark in the country’s history.

Brademas remained an active member of the diaspora, making frequent appearances at events in Washington and New York, on the sidelines of which he showed major interest regarding Greek developments. He also took part in meetings with top Greek officials visiting the US, with whom he shared his assessments of US policy and international affairs.

He opposed US military aid to Greece when the country came under the rule of a military dictatorship in 1967. He was also the instigator of the concept of a 7:10 ratio of American military aid to Greece and Turkey, respectively, following the invasion of Cyprus in 1974. He was decorated for his efforts by both Greece and Cyprus.

His political career ended in 1980, when he lost his seat to Republican John Hiler, the same year that Ronald Reagan was elected president. Brademas went on to become the president of New York University, where for over a decade he oversaw the educational institution’s development into one of the country’s leading universities.

During his tenure, he founded the Onassis Center for Hellenic Studies, as well as establishing branches of NYU in Cyprus and other countries. Throughout both his political and academic career, Brademas was a fervent supporter of the arts and literature. In 1994, President Bill Clinton appointed him chairman of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.

A graduate of Harvard and Oxford, Brademas worked as an assistant professor at Saint Mary’s College at the University of Notre Dame. Following two failed attempts in 1954 and 1956, he was elected as a member of the United States House of Representatives with the Democrats in 1959, becoming the first Greek-American member of Congress in the country’s history.

Online