Contact: Rich Robinson at 301-270-4616
Sunday night, John B. Anderson, former 10-term Member of the House of Representatives, and best-known as an independent presidential candidate in 1980 who earned 7% of the national popular vote, passed away in Washington, D.C., with his wife Keke Anderson of 64 years by his side. He and Keke are the parents of five children and the grandparents of 11.
Mr. Anderson won the respect and affection of millions of Americans with the force of his intellect, integrity and insistence on advocating for a broad vision of the national interest, often in direct contrast to powerful special interests. He is among the most successful independent or third party presidential candidates in American history, especially notable as he was neither personally wealthy (Ross Perot) or a former president (Teddy Roosevelt).
Mr. Anderson was born in Rockford, Illinois to Swedish immigrants. He worked in the family grocery store and worked his way through college at the University of Illinois, Urbana; then served in World War II. He earned his law degree at the University of Illinois and his LLM from Harvard University. He joined the Foreign Service, stationed in Germany. He met his wife in DC when she took his passport photo and he proposed by telegram three months later. John and Keke were married three times: once in a civil ceremony in Germany, the second in a Protestant church and the third time in a Greek Orthodox Church for Keke’s family.
After his tour of duty in World War II, John returned home to Rockford to practice law as his family grew. Public service soon called with a run for the Winnebago County State’s Attorney in 1956. A few years later, the 16th congressional district in northwest Illinois opened up, and Mr. Anderson won the Republican primary in 1960.
He served on the Rules Committee and ascended to leadership as the Chair of the House Republican Conference from 1969-1979 as the third-ranking Republican. John was in many ways emblematic of northeastern and Midwest Republicans in the mid-century: open to civil rights and reasonable public investment in the economy.
He was very proud to have cast the deciding vote in the Rules Committee for the Open Housing Act of 1968 as he was moved by the civil rights movement of the 1960s and his social views became more progressive. He was the third-most ranking Republican in the House when he was the first Republican to call for President Nixon’s resignation.
He ran for the Republican nomination in 1980 and earned a following especially on college campuses with his calls to raise the tax on gasoline by fifty cents and lower the payroll tax.
He remained a viable contender through much of the primary season and while he won the counties of Northern Illinois in the 1980 primary contest, Reagan’s larger margins in southern Illinois closed his path to victory.
Somewhat unexpectedly, his strong following disenchanted with the direction of the Republican Party under presumptive nominee Ronald Reagan and President Jimmy Carter called for Mr. Anderson to launch an unprecedented independent presidential campaign. Despite the lack of personal wealth or an established political infrastructure, Mr. Anderson heeded the call and in national polls in the month after his announcement, enjoyed support of up to 25% of the nation. An important Supreme Court case bears his name on ballot access for independent candidates: Anderson v. Celebrezze (1983).
Mr. Anderson is the author of several books, including “The American Economy We Need,” spoke several languages including German and Swedish, taught as a law professor for more than 20 years at Nova Southeastern Law School in Florida and served as a visiting lecturer at many of the world’s most distinguished universities.
He continued his active civic engagement through his retirement. He was the chairman of the board of FairVote, and campaigned tirelessly for an instant-runoff-voting ranked ballot to eliminate the so-called “spoiler affect” that affected his independent presidential campaign. He also served as president of the World Federalist Association,
Mr. Anderson’s faith in God was central to his life and was a born-again evangelical Christian who later attended the Presbyterian Church.
He leaves a legacy of political and civic inspiration to millions of Americans.
A memorial service will be planned for the early spring in Washington. D.C.