A co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus, the legendary former
California lawmaker mentored a generation of African-American politicians
WASHINGTON The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation celebrates the life and legacy of former U.S. Rep. Augustus Freeman “Gus” Hawkins, the California businessman who spent more than half a century in public service, who died yesterday at the age of 100. He was the oldest living former member of Congress and one of 13 co-founders of the Congressional Black Caucus.
“Mr. Hawkins was the oldest living former member of Congress and we trust that everyone will stop for a moment today to reflect on his service to the country and his unique legacy,” said Elsie L. Scott, Ph.D., the Foundation’s president and chief executive officer. “He was a champion advocate in areas such as civil rights, employment, equal opportunity, education, job training and child care.”
Mr. Hawkins served as chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee and the House Administration Committee – and was the longest-serving African-American member of Congress when he retired in 1990 at age 82. He was then the dean of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Mr. Hawkins had served nearly 30 years in the California State Assembly before being elected in 1963 to represent the Watts area of Los Angeles and surrounding suburbs on Capitol Hill. He is a native of Shreveport, La., and moved with his family to the West Coast in 1918.
Among the more than 300 state and federal laws Mr. Hawkins sponsored was the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act. Signed into law by President Jimmy Carter in 1978, it set four goals for the nation: full employment, growth in production, price stability and balance of trade and budget. It also prohibited discrimination with respect to gender, religion, race, age and national origin in any program created under the measure.
In retirement, Mr. Hawkins continued to work to improve the quality of life for every American, by sitting on boards of directors and working with community leaders, especially in the field of education. He resided with his family in the District of Columbia.
“My grandfather was a tremendous public servant who built a 56-year career serving his country,” said Lisa Ransom, vice president of federal affairs for the Center for Responsible Lending in Washington. “That’s a long time to serve and it reflects on his great character and the quality of him as a person.”
The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Inc. was established in 1976 as a nonpartisan, nonprofit, public policy, research and education institute intended to help improve the socio-economic circumstances of African Americans and other underserved communities.