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Capital work

After completing his 24th term and almost 50 years in Congress, Sidney R. Yates, PhB'31, JD'33-at age 88 one of the oldest members of the House of Representatives-will retire at the end of the 105th Congress.

Some of Yates's biggest accomplishments include obtaining the federal land for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and, early in his career, pushing for D.C.'s first black policeman and fireman. Known as "Mr. Arts" on Capitol Hill, he more than once rescued the National Endowment for the Arts from extinction.

Born on Chicago's North Side in 1909, Yates did not anticipate going into politics while a student at the University of Chicago and a forward on its basketball team. Back then, he wanted to be a lawyer. "I considered politics a possible advance for a law career," he says. "The practice didn't have the intellectual pursuits that I hoped for. Certainly, Congress did."

In 1939, he made an unsuccessful run for one of the city's aldermanic posts. "I tried to crack the machine," he says, "and the machine cracked me." He won his first congressional seat nearly ten years later, in 1948, after serving in the Navy during World War II. Ever since then, he has represented Chicago's 9th district-except for a two-year hiatus, when he unsuccessfully ran for the Senate in 1962 against Senator Everett Dirksen and then became U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Yates has seen five fellow congressmen rise to the presidency-Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Bush-and has served under nine presidents, starting with Truman. When his last term ends in January 1999, he'll retire in Washington, D.C., where he plans to listen to music and reread Cyrano De Bergerac. He says he'll most miss helping people and hopes to be remembered for serving the 9th district: "My time in Congress has been gratifying." -S.G.

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