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Rep. John Lewis Mourns the Death of Rep. Augustus Hawkins and Recognizes his Accomplishments

November 14, 2007
Press Release

On Saturday November 10th, former Congressman Gus Hawkins, the first African American ever elected to the California delegation, a founder of the Congressional Black Caucus, and the author of seminal legislation that helped level the playing field for the poor and minorities in this country died in Bethesda, Maryland. 

            Congressman Lewis made this statement in response to his passing:

“This nation has lost a great champion for the cause of equal rights and social justice in America,” said Rep. John Lewis.  “Gus Hawkins embodied the true meaning of public service.  Regardless of the challenges he faced in his 55 years as a legislator, he always led with great dignity and elegance.  He was soft-spoken and modest.  He was always a perfect gentleman, but make no mistake, Gus Hawkins was a warrior.  During some of the most difficult times in contemporary American history, Gus Hawkins took a stand for what was right and what was good, what was fair and what was just.            

“I remember meeting him several times when I was a participant in the Civil Rights Movement.  He was not afraid to visit Selma, visit Birmingham, and cities in Mississippi when the hostility and tension was at its height in the mid-1960’s.  As a member of Congress, he felt it was his responsibility to see first-hand what was happening at the heart of the Movement.  And while we were marching in the streets, while we were sitting-in and sitting-down, Gus Hawkins was standing up for equal justice in the U.S. House of Representatives.              

“He sponsored the equal employment section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which laid the groundwork for the creation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  He also fought tirelessly for an increase in the minimum wage, and with Sen. Hubert Humphrey, he co-authored the Humphrey-Hawkins Act of 1978, officially named the Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act of 1978.   The bill required two reports to Congress from the Chairman of the Federal Reserve to discuss monetary policy and its impact on the economy.  Though the requirement of the 1978 bill expired in 2000, the report remains today as one of the most important statements made by the Federal Reserve chairman.              

“Gus Hawkins was responsible for legislation that created jobs, that invested the values of youth employment and community service in our society, and that protected women’s rights in the workplace.  Throughout his whole career, he did all he could to lift the circumstances of those who had been left out and left behind in America, supporting bill after bill that tried to strike the core issues of poverty and inequity in America.  We will miss Rep. Gus Hawkins.  He was one of a kind, and we may not be so lucky to see his likeness again, but the impact of his life and his work as a legislator will remain a part of American history for generations to come.”