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 billmoyers.com, 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.”