Hometown forgets an important hero

In the 1950s, there was a congressman named Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Serving at the same time as McCarthy was a Representative in the House named Daniel A. Reed.

McCarthy rose to notoriety and influence by accusing many members of Congress, as well as prominent figures and celebrities of the time, of being Communists. He used the public fear during the Cold War that followed World War II to enhance his own power. His four-year reign of terror consisted of conducting numerous hearings in which witnesses were bullied, grilled, and insulted. His accusations managed to ruin many careers.

While McCarthy was waging his Red Scare campaign, Reed was in his fourth decade of service in Congress, as the chair of the Ways and Means Committee among other responsibilities under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the seventh administration he had served under. Reed ascribed to the Athenian oath, a belief in civic responsibility and a spirit of noble, unselfish public service; in actively making your community better than the way you found it.

Reed was a statesman and gentleman in an era when that was actually the expected norm, so in being distinguished above and beyond, by the many accolades written about him upon his death in 1959, he leaves a legacy of pride for his hometown. Reed did not need to be reminded how to show respect and civility. He was the exact opposite of Joseph McCarthy.

All it eventually took to end the scourge of Communist accusations was simply this: On one of McCarthy’s nationally televised hearings, Boston lawyer Joseph Welch who was representing a young man that McCarthy was accusing had enough. His words are remembered and deserve to be repeated over and over to many current members of the party of McCarthy, and of Reed.

He said, “Until this moment, senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You have done enough. HAVE YOU NO SENSE OF DECENCY?”

That doesn’t seem to work anymore. Many in that party consider a call to decency a big joke; to be castigated for that when the aim is to be outrageous for the attention it brings, to be a bully for the acquiescence it brings. McCarthy himself left this world a defeated man, but McCarthyism still exists. Reed was a well-respected statesman, a Republican when the party had ideals, structure, and a moral compass.

Reed was a renowned college football coach at U of Cincinnati, Penn State, and Cornell prior to becoming a congressman – never a hint of scandal in either of his careers. Scandal occurs too frequently now. Reed passed away of a heart attack at age 83 in Washington D.C., still in service of the country and the people from his district who elected him, 20 times over.

Reed was described as “conservative… but not to the point of obstructionism.” The GOP (grand obstructionist party) has taken the position that they would block anything that the Democratic party would try to accomplish.

Before Mitch McConnell there was Newt Gingrich promoting obstructionist tactics such as threatening government shutdowns and manipulating the filibuster to suit the party’s needs. Now add to that restricting of voting rights and gerrymandering to the benefit of red districts, spreading “the big lie” about the election, and most horrifyingly, allowing and apparently as we are now finding out, plotting and abetting a coup against the legitimately elected president – an attempt to overthrow our constitutional democratic republic.

A recent, most egregious obstruction by Republicans in the Senate was the negative vote on the PACT Act, which had been previously passed but for a minor housekeeping adjustment done in the House. The bill would have provided medical care for veterans who suffer from the effects of toxins and burn pits while they served in the Middle East.

This was a blatant retaliation for a deal made by Sens. Joe Manchin and Charles Schumer on climate, health care, and taxes that they didn’t see coming and have a chance to sabotage.

To use our veterans’ health just to get political revenge is despicable in itself, but then to celebrate and fist bump on the Senate floor over it. Republican Senator John Cornyn was miffed. He stated, “How can we negotiate in good faith … and get things done together … to look you in the face and tell you one thing and do another is absolutely unforgivable.” Indeed.

Isn’t that what they just did? And how many times has the shoe been on the other foot? Daniel Reed would be appalled at the behavior of his party today. (Update, as of Tuesday night, the Republican senators had a change of heart and passed the PACT Act. Too much public outcry, led by a passionate Jon Stewart- bad for midterms). Rep. Daniel Reed from Sheridan used to say he was “not a party man, but voted for things good for the country.”.

I cannot think of a Republican in this millennium who would even resemble the likes of Reed except for Sen. John McCain, also a man of integrity who stood on principle, not the whims of political expediency.

Gentlemen of character and courage are a dying breed. Sadly, today’s Republican party is being threatened by an authoritarian movement for the purpose of power, not democracy; by self-interest rather than concern for the good of the people; by ruling, not representing; via spreading lies and ignoring established laws and operational norms- and too many are following along. For our democratic Republic to survive, we need at least two healthy parties that operate within the democratic process.

Representative Daniel Alden Reed lies buried in Sheridan Cemetery on Center Road in Sheridan. He was born in Sheridan, and in 1976 for the bicentennial, the town placed a stone marker at his homestead at Center and Chapin roads. It is on private property and does not see many if any visitors. His grave gets no visitors. It is an unremarkable average stone that just blends in with the others who have passed on.

There is no way of telling that this is the final resting place of someone so consequential in the service of our country. Some of the older Sheridanites have childhood memories of his burial and the dignitaries who attended. Younger residents have no knowledge of him other than for some reason the library at SUNY Fredonia is named the Daniel Reed library. And for some reason a pier in Barcelona has that name too.

His hometown of Sheridan needs to recognize and remember him, even more so now when representatives of his caliber are so hard to find. I am embarking on a crusade to this end, beginning with a plaque for the back of his gravestone which identifies his congressional career.

Anyone who may be interested in helping with this cause may contact me through the OBSERVER. The memory of Congressman Daniel A. Reed needs to be revived and the town he called home should be showing its pride.

Susan Bigler is a Sheridan resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com


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