Jerome Waldie remembered as gentle statesman
April 8, 2009
Former U.S. Congressman Jerome Waldie, who was instrumental in the downfall of President Richard Nixon and served on the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency governing board for 16 years, has died. He was 84.
Waldie died Friday evening at his home in Placerville. He will be remembered for his love of family and entertaining and his wry sense of humor, said Waldie’s 53 year-old-son, Jon Waldie.
“He didn’t suffer fools and he wouldn’t suffer us,” Jon said. “By virtue of his example-setting, he has created three other generations who are kind of quick with the tongue.”
Waldie is survived by his wife, Joanne; children Jill Waldie of Placerville, Jeff Waldie of South Lake Tahoe and Jon Waldie of El Dorado; seven grandchildren; and two great grandchildren.
El Dorado County Supervisor Norma Santiago, who worked with Waldie on the TRPA Governing Board, called him an encouraging and kind mentor and a true statesman.
“He is to me what any statesman should aspire to be,” Santiago said. “Dedicated to principles of public service, truly committed to serving the public good.
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“He will be sorely missed.”
Santiago and fellow county Supervisor Ron Briggs have asked that flags be flown at half-staff at county buildings this week in Waldie’s honor.
Waldie was born in 1925 in what was then the small delta town of Antioch, between San Francisco and the state capital. He served three years in the Army before earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley in 1950 and a law degree from UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law in 1953.
Waldie was first elected to the California state Assembly from the eastern half of Contra Costa County in 1958 and became majority leader in 1961. In 1966, Waldie carried the constitutional amendment that made the part-time Legislature full-time.
Waldie was elected by special election to the 89th Congress in 1966 to fill the vacancy caused by the death of U.S. Representative John F. Baldwin; and then reelected four times.
He was an early critic of U.S. involvement in Vietnam and advocated for health care reforms while compiling a pro-environment record.
Three days after Nixon fired Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox in what became known as the Friday Night Massacre, Waldie introduced a resolution calling for impeachment of the president.
He was a member of the House Judiciary Committee, which voted to impeach Nixon in July 1974. Nixon resigned two weeks later.
In a biography he prepared for the TRPA, Waldie said serving on the committee was a highlight of his Congressional career.
In 1974 Waldie ran for the California governor’s seat, embarking on a low-budget, walk-the-state campaign and eventually losing the Democratic primary to Jerry Brown, who went on to win the race.
President Jimmy Carter appointed Waldie as chairman of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission in 1976 and as executive director of the White House Conference on Aging in 1979.
Then-governor Brown appointed Waldie to the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board in 1981, where he served until 1985. The state Senate Rules Committee appointed him to the TRPA governing board in 1992, where he served until last December. He stepped down due to health reasons.
The TRPA board was a “perfect fit” for Waldie, Jon said.
“He loved the environment, he loved Tahoe and he couldn’t think of a place he’d rather be trying to set policy,” Jon said.
“His health just got to the point where he couldn’t drive over the Sierra,” Jon said.
During his last few years on the board, Waldie would sometimes endure physical pain to attend governing meetings, according to Coe Swobe, who served with Waldie on the board.
“We had great fun poking fun at each other’s political parties,” Swobe said, taking the opportunity to give the political party of his friend one last jab.
“He never shut anyone up because of his feelings, in fact, he would bend over backward to makes sure he was fair ” just a real strange Democrat in that way,” Swobe said.
Michael Donahoe, conservation co-chair of the Tahoe Area Sierra Club, called Waldie “a man of profound honor.”
“He was a bulldog for saving this lake,” said Donahoe, who also made note of Waldie’s gentle and courteous demeanor. “(He was) sometimes the solitary flag-bearer for this treasure of ours. He did not lose hope ” he kept plugging away. It’s a great loss.”
Although witnessing his own declining health was difficult for Waldie ” who chopped his own firewood into his 70s ” he remained in good spirits until the end, Jon said.
The avid outdoorsman also enjoyed writing, and contributed columns to newspapers including the Tahoe Daily Tribune. The topics were usually political, but sometimes personal.
He sent his final column on April 1, “Old age not for sissies,” lamenting in a light-hearted way his medical problems.
In a July column, he recounted how he met his wife, Joanne, and proposed to her on their third date. The couple celebrated their 60th anniversary last year.
Family members will be arranging a memorial service at Lake Tahoe sometime this summer.
” The Associated Press contributed to this report.