Champion of the Social Contract

A Philadelphia district that had voted Republican since 1858 sent Edgar, a Democrat, to Congress.

A Philadelphia district that had voted Republican since 1858 sent Edgar, a Democrat, to Congress.

The death of Common Cause President Bob Edgar T’68 took many by surprise. Bill Moyers was among them.

By Christopher Hann

“There are people in public life who cannot be bought, flattered or hammered into submission. Bob Edgar was one of them.”

So began television commentator Bill Moyers’ tribute to Robert William Edgar, a six-term congressman from Pennsylvania who championed the causes of the dispossessed and who later became general secretary of the National Council of Churches, president of Claremont School of Theology in California and leader of the public interest group Common Cause. Edgar died April 23 of a heart attack at his home in Virginia. He was 69.

A Drew trustee, Edgar was eulogized from the Forest to the corridors of Congress to the obit page of The New York Times. “Bob’s entire life and career, grounded in the ethics and values of his faith, were devoted to furthering social justice and a democratic society,” Theo School Dean Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan said in a statement.

Writing on, Moyers recalled Edgar’s arrival in Washington in 1975. “He was appalled by the stench of corruption still rising from the Watergate scandals,” Moyers wrote. “He and other newcomers set out to clean house—the House of Representatives—what used to be called, as he liked to remind us, ‘the People’s House.’

“He fought for transparency in government, for requiring chemical companies to tell people about the toxic substances poured into their neighborhoods, for public transportation, for veterans back from Vietnam suffering from PTSD and the effects of Agent Orange. But when he railed against the buying and selling of influence and ‘pork-barrel’ graft, he found himself at odds with the leaders of his own party.

“Bob was steeped in the ethical teachings of the 18th century evangelist John Wesley, who, believing faith called for action, founded the movement whose  disciples opposed slavery, served the neglected and needy, worked for prison reform, and started schools and orphanages, weaving in countless ways what became part and parcel of America’s social contract.”

One Response to “Champion of the Social Contract”

  1. William S. Coleman III says:

    I new pastor Bob as a young man I east falls Philadelphia.

    He welcomed me to his church’s youth group.

    Thart part of Philly was white and protestant
    I was black. We met when a group bullies were chasing after my friends and me after winning a baseball game…..we won.

    Pastor Bob and his wife welcomed us into his church home and invited us to church evevts.

    I had never been In a protestant church. what a welcome.

    I would later run into Pastor Bob as a congressmen when I worked in Washington D.C. for then Senator Edward W Brooke R- Massachusetts. Senator Brooke was the first Africian American elected by popular vote to the Unitef States Senate.

    I remember his wife a self taught guitar player…she played the guitar upside down.

    From Massachusetts I followed his Campaign for US Senate hoping he would win.

    He inspired me as a young man an till this day…He always will.o