Congressman John Edward Fogarty

Inducted: 1967
Born: 1913
Died: 1967

My long-time friend, attorney Tom McAndrew of the large and influential McAndrew clan of Westerly, is also the son-in-law of the congressman. He married Mary Fogarty, John’s only child. Together, they have preserved the memory of Congressman Fogarty and continue supporting his good works through the Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health and via the John E. Fogarty Foundation for Persons with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

I was deeply honored by Tom and Mary when they asked me to deliver the principal address at the opening of the John E. Fogarty Centennial Celebration held on January 10, 2013, in the Governor’s Reception Room of the Rhode Island State House. On March 23, 2013, the Providence Journal published my much-abbreviated commentary on Fogarty to coincide with his actual birthday. The title of the essay, chosen by the editors, read “John Fogarty was R.I.’s greatest congressman.” No Journal headline was ever more accurate. Relying mainly upon information contained in the following centennial address, Rhode Island historian Christian McBurney selected Fogarty as number 8 in his thoughtful and provocative list of the 20 most nationally influential Rhode Islanders ever.

-Patrick T. Conley

Those of us who studied world history will recall that Marc Antony came to bury Caesar, not to praise him. Today, our purpose is in diametric opposition. We come here in the centennial year of John Edward Fogarty’s birth to give him praise so that the memory of John as a person will not be buried in the sands of time. However, we do so with confidence that Congressman Fogarty’s legacy in the field of public health will endure as long as America itself.

Concerning the permanency of that legacy, we may take comfort from the words of literary giant William Faulkner, whose Irish-American roots differed markedly from John’s: “The past is never dead,” said Faulkner, “It’s not even past.” In this sense, John Fogarty’s work is eternal.

Presumably, I was initially invited to provide remarks for this very special observance because of my research on the Irish Americans of Rhode Island. Attorney Tom McAndrew, John Fogarty’s son-in-law, sent me an email in October requesting that I speak about “the contribution of Irish Catholic politicians to Rhode Island,” emphasizing, of course, the legacy of John Edward Fogarty, the most popular, productive, and politically durable of them all.

John’s daughter Mary later reminded me that her father was justly known as “Everybody’s Congressman,” so an ethno-religious and partisan focus would be too narrow. “Stress my father’s wide-ranging congressional record,” she suggested. Either of these huge assignments would take me well into the evening to complete, so I will heed the warning of John’s friend and my mentor, Father Cornelius Forster of Providence College, a key figure in the establishment of the college archives as a repository for the voluminous Fogarty Papers. Father Forster, an eloquent preacher, warned me that “no soul is saved after the first 20 minutes!”

Though I am not here to save souls, I am here to honor one whose work saves countless lives in America and worldwide. It would not be hyperbole to state that everyone here knows someone close who would not be alive today but for medical breakthroughs made as a result of research funded by the efforts of John Fogarty.

In 1992, Dr. James P. Crowley, a professor of medicine at Brown University, wrote a superb and revealing essay entitled “Health for Peace: John E. Fogarty’s Vision of American Leadership in Health Care and International Biomedical Research” for the Journal of the Rhode Island Medical Society. Dr. Crowley, then president of the society, wrote his article as “a 25th Year Perspective,” extolling John Fogarty’s legacy. Crowley’s opening sentence defines his view: “Twenty-five years ago, on Tuesday, January 10, 1967, the United States lost the foremost champion of health care and medical research legislation that ever served [in] Congress.” Crowley’s recitation of that legislative litany has given me a greater appreciation of John Fogarty’s global impact.

When I consider the work done by Matt Smith, his assistant Jane Jackson, and Dr. Crowley in combination with the book full of heartfelt but fact-filled memorial addresses delivered by his fellow congressmen (nearly 200 in number) and the moving, personal eulogy brilliantly delivered at John’s funeral mass by my dear friend, Father Joseph Lennon of Providence College, it is beyond my power, as Lincoln said at Gettysburg, to add or detract.

Tom and Mary have given me a lengthy task for which I am unequal yet honored. So, as John’s final presidential colleague Lyndon Johnson often urged: Let us continue.

John Fogarty was born in Providence on March 23, 1913, less than three weeks after Woodrow Wilson assumed the presidency of the United States. Perhaps his dutiful parents, John Peter and the former Cora Whelan, timed young John’s arrival to coincide with the advent of a Democratic president, but they overshot the feast of St. Patrick by six days. In somewhat of a prophetic irony, Cora’s name was derived from the Latin word for “heart.” Eventually, she became the mother of six, of which John was the third child.

When John was born, the Fogarty family lived in a small brick bungalow at 47 Winthrop Avenue in the heart of the city’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood. They were devout parishioners of Blessed Sacrament Church, then under the spiritual care of Father William Ignatius Simmons, who served as pastor of Blessed Sacrament from 1888 until he died in 1921. The Fogartys moved in May 1918 to the village of Harmony along the Putnam Pike in the rural town of Glocester. By that time, the children of John and Cora numbered five–the oldest, William, had been followed by Margaret, John Edward, Frank, and Raymond. The youngest, Charlie, was born in Harmony. In that bucolic setting, John Fogarty spent the remainder of his life.

The elder John Fogarty was a hod carrier, or bricklayer, a trade practiced by numerous Irish Americans. The many mills that dot Rhode Island’s landscape are the surviving monuments to their skill and work ethic. Young John seemed destined for a less arduous calling. He was bright and personable, with the qualities of a leader. He enrolled at LaSalle Academy, the seedbed for young Irish Catholic professionals, to study under the stern and watchful eyes of the Christian Brothers. He planned to attend the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, but shortly before he graduated in 1930, America had plunged into the Great Depression. Unprecedented hard times forced him to abandon books for bricks. Working-class families such as his needed breadwinners, not bookmen.

Following his family’s tradition, John became first an apprentice and then a journeyman bricklayer. He worked through the Depression decade of the 1930s, building not only structures but also confidence. By 1939, John had become president of local Bricklayers’ Union No. 1 and a force in Rhode Island’s rapidly emerging labor movement, but his life’s labor had just begun.

In 1940, after polishing some of his academic skills in the evening school at Providence College, John won the nomination as a United States Congressman from Rhode Island’s Second (or Western) District. He was easily elected though only 27 — a mere two years above the age requirement for that prestigious post.

If we were gathered here to beatify John Fogarty as the patron saint of public health, I would advance this nomination as his first miracle. The Republican Party had dominated Rhode Island government from the founding of the GOP in 1856 until the Bloodless Revolution of January 1935, when a learned, urbane, and reform-minded Yankee, Theodore Francis Green, led a coterie of dynamic Irish Catholic Democrats in what has been called the Bloodless Revolution.

Unaccustomed to the exercise of power, these Irish-American revolutionaries battled among themselves for control of the newly ascendant Democratic Party. Among their several internecine battles was the infamous Racetrack War of 1937, a confrontation so bizarre it was featured in Life Magazine, where columnist Westbrook Pegler dubbed it “The War of the Wild Irish Roses!”

These Celtic politicos with pent-up ambitions included one-term Governor Robert Emmet Quinn, commander-in-chief in the Race Track War; U.S. District Attorney J. Howard McGrath, later governor, U.S. Senator, U.S. solicitor general, U.S. attorney general, and national chairman of the Democratic Party; Chief Justice Edmund Flynn of South Providence, brother of former Governor William S. Flynn and the legendary PC baseball coach Jack Flynn; former U.S. Congressman Francis Congdon, a future chief justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court; former attorney general John P. Hartigan; attorney general, and former Congressman Jeremiah O’Connell; state representative, future attorney general, and Supreme Court Justice William E. Powers; Providence mayor and future governor Dennis J. Roberts and his brother Thomas, also a future chief justice; Jim Kiernan of Mount Pleasant, whose long and strong legislative tenure would earn him the nickname “Mr. Democrat”; Thomas Patrick McCoy, the legendary and contentious Pawtucket mayor, and his protégée Harry Curvin, who would become the longest-tenured Speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives.

All these Irishmen were older than John Fogarty, and most of them were more highly educated. In addition, the Irish had to satisfy leaders of the Franco-American and Italian-American communities since both these groups had generally renounced their Republican leanings and become part of the Democratic New Deal coalition. Ambitious politicians like Louis Cappelli, John O. Pastore, Christopher Del Sesto (then a Democrat), Felix Toupin, Armand Cote, and Amie J. Forand needed recognition and opportunity.

All of the above, now household names to the student of modern Rhode Island history, were in the trenches even before the Bloodless Revolution in state government, but in January 1935, when that upheaval occurred, John Fogarty was just a 22-year-old bricklayer! Amazingly, he took his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives six years later. Those Democrats who advanced his nomination must have seen the potential greatness of young John Fogarty, for certainly, his selection was not motivated merely by his ability to carry his staunchly Republican hometown of Glocester! As talent scouts, those party leaders have no peers.

During his early years as a national legislator, John listened and learned. Victory in World War II took precedence over all else. John wanted to be a part of that triumph. On December 7, 1944, after his election for a third term and while serving on the House Naval Affairs Committee, John resigned for two months to see the war firsthand as a member of a naval construction battalion called the Seabees. His experience, though brief, made him a lifetime champion of enlisted servicemen.

During the years of John’s legislative apprenticeship, foreign affairs absorbed him and all Americans. However, he found time to formulate domestic policy as well. In 1943, John married Luise Martha Rohland, a schoolteacher, and they soon contributed to the post-war baby boom with their daughter Mary.

In 1949, John got a big break. As a fifth-term congressman, he was appointed (perhaps with a nudge from J. Howard McGrath) to the House Appropriations Committee and, with it, the chairmanship of the subcommittee on Labor, Health, Education, and Welfare. Given his background to that point, his status as a card-carrying union man appears to be the most important factor in obtaining this subcommittee assignment.

However, just like Paul of Tarsus was suddenly transformed on the road to Damascus, John Fogarty was converted on the road to Bethesda, Maryland. While always a staunch supporter of legislation protecting the working man, he switched his primary focus to the issue of health and health research. John believed that an ounce of prevention was worth a pound of cure, or stated fiscally, $1 billion for medical research might save $16 billion in medical care.

The oft-cited statistic in this regard is the fact that the federal appropriation for the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, totaled approximately $26.5 million in fiscal 1948. Then, in the fiscal years from 1950 to 1967 under Fogarty’s chairmanship, the House of Representatives on 13 occasions voted more money for the National Institutes of Health than the presidents had requested in their budgets, despite such fiscal priorities as the Korean War, the Cold War, the Space Race, the Vietnam War, and the Interstate Highway System. This was John’s second miracle.

At Fogarty’s insistence and under his leadership, the federal expenditure for NIH rose to $1.24 billion in 1967, when $1 billion was considered a lot of money! The only concession that John asked was that some of the new research buildings be built of brick. Fogarty fought tenaciously, some said fanatically, for his great and noble goal. Legendary House Speaker Sam Rayburn, admittedly not given to compliments, called Fogarty’s 1954 floor battle to increase funds for medical research “one of the most powerful and convincing speeches and arguments I have listened to since I have become a member of this House.” Conservative Congressman George McMahon, like Rayburn, a Texas Democrat, chaired the full Appropriations Committee. He tried in vain to keep Fogarty in check. “The trouble with John,” remarked McMahon on one occasion, “was that he wanted to give NIH everything but the Capitol dome.”

Of course, the firm and resolute congressman from Rhode Island did not accomplish this revolution in federal funding alone. He obtained valuable support from Republican Melvin Laird of Wisconsin, the ranking minority member of his committee; from courtly Alabama Democrat Lister Hill, Fogarty’s Senate counterpart and the son of a cardiologist, who would serve a total of 45 years in the upper chamber; and from the articulate and demanding director of NIH, Dr. James A. Shannon. Of interest to Rhode Islanders is the fact that Hill singled out John O. Pastore as one of his major supporters in the battle for research funding. Outside Congress, a strong citizens’ research lobby led by Florence Mahoney of Florida and Mary Lasker of the Albert D. Lasker Foundation provided public and financial support.

To phrase it poetically, the four horsemen of public health — Fogarty, Hill, Laird, and Shannon — urged on by such cheerleaders as Mary Lasker and Florence Mahoney, set out to conquer the most dreaded of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse — that rider on the pale horse called plague. They were pioneers in what we now call preventive medicine. “More and more,” stated Fogarty, “I am convinced that research takes precedence over care. Medical care is locking the barn door after the horse is stolen.”

The manner in which chairman Fogarty stage-managed his NIH hearings by cleverly recruiting and coaching a parade of prominent physicians such as Drs. Paul Dudley White, Michael De Bakey, and Sidney Farber to testify in favor of budgetary increases is related by public health analyst Stephen P. Strickland in a book entitled Politics, Science, and Dread Disease: A Short History of United States Medical Research Policy (1972). Strickland describes the masterful 11 budgetary manipulations between Fogarty and Senator Hill, with NIH the grateful beneficiary. That process is also related in all its intimate details by Melvin Laird, John’s House partner in progress. In Laird’s biography, With Honor, the Republican leader confesses that he occasionally appeared to oppose Fogarty on the House floor only to quietly capitulate later as part of their ongoing political choreography.

By 1958, John was ready to move well beyond Bethesda. That year, he introduced a resolution to establish an Institute for International Health and Medical Research, the “Health for Peace” bill. This measure envisioned a global effort to combat disease. John embraced this course of action after representing the United States at the 1957 assembly of the World Health Organization. After that, he fulfilled this role in 1959 and from 1961 until his death.

For this project, John coined the motto, “Let our second American Revolution be a World War against disease.” Though substantially amended, his legislation became the International Health Research Act of 1960. It was the main focus of Dr. Crowley’s 1992 article on Congressman Fogarty. The Fogarty International Center was created at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda after his death. It now sponsors training for over 5,000 scientists and doctors, operating programs in more than 100 countries. It also represents the NIH in international affairs and uses its prestige and resources to leverage a small budget ($70 million) into a powerful force — first for combating infectious disease and now to stem the epidemic of chronic diseases facing all countries.

Great as they were in the field of public health, John Fogarty’s accomplishments went far beyond the lavish but necessary funding to find the causes and the cures for every known disease. His proposed legislation, much of it enacted into law, fills 88 boxes in Providence College’s Fogarty Collection. To list his concerns and his legislative achievements would be like reciting the Yellow Pages, so I will summarize those dearest to his heart. John Fogarty was renowned for the huge funding he secured to construct medical, dental, psychiatric, and health research facilities. He added schools, libraries, and community health centers to these projects. These efforts advanced the causes of health and learning and provided innumerable jobs for the building trades. Bricklayer John never forgot his roots.

John’s love for education transcended its practical application. He was the primary congressional sponsor of the Cultural Development Act in 1962, which established a National Institute for the Arts and Sciences, and also the sponsor of the National Arts and Cultural Development Act of 1965, creating a National Council on the Arts, a National Arts Foundation, and a National Institute of Arts and Humanities. Senator Claiborne Pell gets all the credit for these major cultural innovations, but the bricklayer prepared the foundation.

Although he abandoned books for bricks in the Great Depression, John Fogarty returned to the books in 1956 when he joined with Senator Hill in securing the passage of the Library Services Act. Like Castor and Pollux, the famous twins of Greek mythology, Fogarty and Hill became congressional stars in the campaign to brighten the minds of the American public. Guided by Rhode Island state librarian Elizabeth Myer, John became a bibliophile and gained honorary lifetime membership in the American Library Association due to his pathbreaking legislation.

Even more than buildings or books, however, John Fogarty cared for people, especially those who were disabled and in need of rehabilitation, developmentally challenged, physically or mentally ill, or congenitally impaired. His solicitude for the deaf and the blind was evident in the bills he sponsored. His sense of compassion even extended to the animals used in health research. His Laboratory Animals Act of 1966 improved the facilities and the treatment of lab animals, and his Veterinary Medical Education Facilities Act of 1965 dramatically upgraded the quality of veterinary medicine.

John’s efforts extended the lifespan of Americans to such an extent that he felt the need to establish the White House Conference on Aging and to be the initial sponsor of the Older Americans Act of 1965. Still, in Christ-like fashion, he gave his special love and attention to children — especially to their education and health. John became particularly sensitive to the needs of mentally challenged youngsters, as evidenced by his 1963 sponsorship of the Exceptional Children Act, which expanded and improved state special education programs.

Congressman Fogarty’s increasing devotion to mental health for Americans was evidenced by the passage in 1963 of his Mental Retardation Facilities Construction Act and the Mental Retardation Education Research Act. In the private sector, in 1964, he established The John E. Fogarty Foundation for Persons with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. This organization has planned this centennial observance to sustain the noble work begun by its namesake.

How do I, as Historian Laureate, remember John Fogarty? Since he was of an older generation (which some call “the greatest”), my contact with him was slight. Our only extended conversation came in the 1966 political campaign, just a few months before his sudden death. I told him I was working on my doctoral dissertation at the University of Notre Dame and jokingly noted that he had received an honorary doctorate there in 1964, ahead of me. He replied that his honorary Doctor of Laws from Notre Dame ranked with his first honorary degree — a 1946 doctorate in political science from Providence College — as his most cherished academic awards among the 19 honorary doctorates he received.

I told him that the subject of my dissertation was Rhode Island’s Dorr Rebellion and that my study would reveal the long-suppressed reason for the defeat of Thomas Wilson Dorr’s so-called “People’s Constitution.” Dorr’s basic law would have given the vote to native-born and naturalized citizens equally. This provision was blatantly and successfully exploited by Dorr’s opponents, who warned that such an extension of the franchise would “place your government, your civil and political institutions, your public schools, and perhaps your religious privileges under the control of the Pope of Rome through the medium of thousands of naturalized foreign Catholics” and make Rhode Island “a province of Ireland [where] St. Patrick will take the place of Roger Williams and the shamrock will supersede the anchor and Hope” or so claimed Providence Journal editor Henry Bowen Anthony.

John shook his head in frustration: “In some places and among some people in Rhode Island,” he noted sadly, “little has changed.” He smiled as he informed me that the Journal had repeatedly failed to endorse him, and when the paper finally relented, he rejected their gesture as “the kiss of death.” John Fogarty loved his Irish heritage as much as he hated religious bigotry. His famed bow tie was his green badge of courage and a show of indifference to those who only judged him by his Irish heritage and his Catholic religion.

If there is one area in which John Fogarty was not Christ-like, it was his reaction to what he perceived as religious bigotry. He never turned the other cheek! He deplored what he regarded as England’s religious-based oppression of Ireland and repeatedly introduced resolutions from 1949 onward calling for the unification of Ireland. Shortly after gaining his subcommittee chairmanship, he amended the federal budget to deprive England of American foreign aid until Ireland was united. Needless to say, this act of defiance, more to dramatize than to deprive, was promptly discovered and overruled.

In June 1963, Fogarty drew upon his close ties with Rhode Island’s Jewish community and his empathy for their tragic history by advancing a bill to add a motto on the soon-to-be-issued George Washington five-cent postage stamp. He recommended adding the words of Washington in 1790 to the Friends of Touro Synagogue: “To bigotry, no sanction.”

John Fogarty became the ideal poster boy for the Irish-American politician. He was an honest, incorruptible, dedicated public servant; a loyal and faithful family man; an affable, approachable, and active member of numerous Irish-American organizations; a frequent visitor to the “Auld Sod”; a sincere, devout, practicing Catholic; and the leader of an Irish-American congressional contingent with whom he ate, drank, strategized, and socialized.

For those who like historical statistics, the following are instructive. John Fogarty shares with Fernand St. Germain the distinction of winning 14 congressional races, the most of any Rhode Islander. Only John’s long-time colleague Amie J. Forand, with 11, comes close. John’s death at 53 cut short his 14th term, giving St. Germain the edge in longevity, but one can scarcely doubt that John could have easily run up a string of 10 more victories before he reached my age of 74. As it was, he spent nearly half his life in Congress.

John chose to stay in the House when Senator Theodore Francis Green announced his retirement in 1960. He had seniority and power in the lower chamber, he was only beginning his fight for the mentally disabled and the elderly, and he had just expanded his public health initiatives globally through his proposed National Institute for International Medical Research.

On April 8, 1960, John wrote to inform Senate aspirant Claiborne Pell that he “must subordinate personal desires in the interests of the people I serve and the party I represent. Twenty years of continuous activity in the House of Representatives,” he said, “has placed me in a position of responsible leadership in that body. As Chairman of my Committee and through other assignments, I am able to exert a marked influence on the main sweep of events around me, particularly as they affect Rhode Island.” John stepped aside, Pell won, and began a locally unprecedented 36-year tenure in the U.S. Senate.

John Fogarty’s selflessness did not go unnoticed or unrewarded. He continued to be easily reelected, and in 1964, his plurality of 129,773 votes became the unapproachable record for a Rhode Island House election. Truly, John Fogarty had become “Everybody’s Congressman.”
Despite the national financial power wielded by Senator Nelson Aldrich (the General Manager of the United States) and the influence of the eloquent and feisty John O. Pastore — a major force in the areas of civil rights, atomic energy, and communications — and notwithstanding the enduring educational, cultural, and maritime legacy of Senator Claiborne Pell, I believe that John Fogarty has exerted a greater impact on the nation and the world than any Rhode Island political figure ever because of his pathbreaking health initiatives.

In a 1790 letter to a relative, the scholarly Thomas Jefferson, founder of the University of Virginia and benefactor of the Library of Congress, stated, “Health is worth more than learning.” John Fogarty excelled by immeasurably advancing both. Jefferson would have been very proud of his political disciple.

One of the most glaring deficiencies in the literature of modern Rhode Island is that no full-scale biography of John Edward Fogarty has been written despite the existence of his voluminous papers. Their donation to Providence College led to the creation of PC’s archival program. There they eagerly await the biographer!

In 1989, Ruth S. Morgenthau wrote Pride Without Prejudice on the career of John O. Pastore, and in 2011, Journal reporter G. Wayne Miller wrote An Uncommon Man about the productive life of Claiborne Pell. Both books are welcome and well done, but neither takes note of Fogarty’s interaction with these senatorial giants. His presence is all but ignored. To my knowledge, the only published book focusing on Fogarty is James S. Healey’s 1974 monograph entitled John E. Fogarty: Political Leadership for Library Development. To date, Hollywood has not bought its movie rights. Perhaps this essay will be a catalyst for a book-length history of the humanitarian from Harmony.

John Fogarty died of a massive heart attack at his Washington desk on January 10, 1967, just before his 14th congressional term opened. Just 11 months before his untimely and sudden death, he had received the Heart-of-the-Year Award from the American Heart Association. Now, many hearts in Congress and Rhode Island were broken. The state had lost its most beloved political leader.

In the aftermath of John Fogarty’s death, there was a mad scramble for his seat with more than a dozen aspirants. Warwick state senator Robert O. Tiernan emerged victorious in a divisive primary, aided by young Patrick Conley, his speechwriter and chairman of his novel and very talented advisory council. In an extremely tight three-way race, Bob edged Cranston Republican Mayor James DiPrete, Jr. and won with a plurality of 313 — down slightly from Fogarty’s 1964 margin of victory!

Now that you have heard from one end of the horse, I would like to conclude my discourse with an assessment from the horse’s mouth by then-68-year-old, 13-term Massachusetts Congressman Philip Philbin, one of John Fogarty’s close congressional confidants and a member of his Gaelic group, affectionately known as “the Irish Brigade.” This assessment is not platitudinous rhetoric from a remote source but an analysis by a learned graduate of Harvard University and Columbia University School of Law who worked with John and knew him intimately. Philbin’s praise is as long as it is eloquent and moving, so a few selected excerpts must suffice:

“I would like to touch upon the personal side of John Fogarty,” said Philbin.
“There were many unusual, impressive, and attractive facets to his character and makeup.
• He was strong, powerful, and physically rugged and did not know the meaning of fear.
• His natural, quick, alert mind enabled him to make sharp, accurate, speedy appraisals.
• He was articulate and forceful in his speech, capable of decisions, and persuasive in his advocacy.
• He was militant and unswerving when aroused by an allegiance to a cause.
• He was straightforward, direct, and fair-minded and never struck a low blow.
• He was shrewd and canny in negotiations, artful and clever in gaining his ends, resourceful in putting his ideas and his measures through his committee, the House, and the Congress.

“John Fogarty,” continued, Philbin “drew on all his resources, physical, intellectual, political, spiritual, and inspirational, almost as an evangelist with a holy cause hammering out one measure after another to set up, strengthen, and perfect the institutes of health… and related agencies, for attacking the killer diseases, mental retardation, and a host of spastic and congenital afflictions which have plagued humanity for centuries. It is doubtful whether so many people in this country suffering from a killer and other diseases, now or in the foreseeable future, and who have been or will be cured or relieved, will ever owe so much to one individual as they owe to John Fogarty of Rhode Island for the merciful aid and deliverance which his inspired leadership assured for them.”

Philbin’s final assessment was and is shared by many knowledgeable others — politicians, physicians, and scientists alike: “It can be said without fear of contradiction and unquestionably, that John Fogarty is the greatest political health leader in our history.”

Of the hundreds of lavish eulogies honoring Congressman Fogarty as news of his sudden death spanned the nation, none were more heartfelt, moving, and accurate than the one written for the New York Times by Howard A. Rusk, M.D., a leading advocate for federal support of medical education. According to Dr. Rusk: “No one in the history of this country has done more to promote more and better health services, more and better health facilities, and more and better health research than Congressman Fogarty. He died on the field of battle. His friends, from the scientist to the sick, mourn his loss and call him blessed. This is why we have gathered here today to celebrate his all-too-brief life and his never-ending legacy.”

John Fogarty was inducted into The Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in 1967.

For additional reading:
John E. Fogarty Memorial Service, Ninetieth Congress.

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