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Remembering Charlie Stenholm, one of the last non-partisan politicians of Texas.

Cathey Sims and Charlie Stenholm


I was saddened to hear about the death of former U.S. Congressman Charles Stenholm.

Charlie, as he was called by everyone who knew him, represented the 17th District of Texas, which included Erath County, from 1979 to2005.

I was privileged to serve an educator internship in his office in July, 2000 and having the opportunity to see government in action was an experience I’ll never forget.

Charlie encouraged us to attend the summer intern series and I was fortunate to hear such dignitaries speak as John Lewis, Edward Kennedy, Jack Kemp and Cokie Roberts.

I witnessed a Sunset Parade featuring the Drum and Bugle Corps at the base of the Iwo Jima Memorial and met all of nine women senators serving at the time at a book signing ceremony.

As this was pre-911, my intern badge let me wander in and out of the Capitol whenever I wanted, and I never got over the awe and sense of pride of that grand building.

But my fondest memory was knowing and working with Charlie himself.

He was one of the last non-partisan politicians ever elected to Congress and called himself a “Blue Dog Democrat,” a group of conservative Democrats who worked to eliminate the national debt, cut taxes for small businesses and middle-income families and invest in priority programs like agriculture, education, defense and health care.

He would reach across the aisle and work with Republicans if he thought a compromise would benefit most Americans.

In an article I read since his death, Lubbock Representative Jodey Arrington was quoted as saying, “Charles was a citizen legislator the founding fathers envisioned.”

The only way those who wanted him out of office could have him removed was to redistrict Texas and put Charlie in an urban district where his rural and agricultural base could not vote for him so he lost his last election.

It was a loss for the state of Texas and the nation.

I don’t think I ever told Charlie what that month meant to me and how it shaped the way I feel about government and our elected officials.

He set the bar so high that today I am having a real problem trying to justify what is happening in Congress and around the country.

Charlie, thank you for your years of service. We need more people like you.


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