Newton Steers Jr., former congressman, at 76

February 13, 1993|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,Staff Writer

Newton Ivan Steers Jr., a progressive Republican from Montgomery County who served in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Maryland Senate, died Thursday at his Bethesda home after a long battle with cancer. He was 76.

Mr. Steers also served as state insurance commissioner and assistant secretary of the Maryland Department of Licensing and Regulation and was occasionally an influential voice in state politics and public policy.

"He was an officer and a gentleman," Robert A. Pascal, Gov. William Donald Schaefer's appointments secretary, said yesterday. When Mr. Pascal unsuccessfully ran for governor in 1982, he tapped Mr. Steers for lieutenant governor.

"I served with him in the Senate for four years," Mr. Pascal said. "He was hard-working, extremely courteous and a man of tremendous intellect."

Born in Glen Ridge, N.J., Mr. Steers graduated from Yale University in 1939.

He served in the Army Air Forces during World War II. The Army sent him to study meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Mr. Steers subsequently piloted weather aircraft over England, France, Belgium and Germany and participated in the D-Day invasion of Normandy.

After military service, Mr. Steers earned a law degree at Yale Law School and went to work for the Atomic Energy Commission. He and a group of associates formed the Atomic Development Mutual Fund and traveled the world promoting atomic energy.

He ran for Maryland's at-large congressional seat in 1962 but lost to Democrat Carlton R. Sickles. In 1964, he became the #i Republican state chairman, and he held that post for two years.

In 1966, he lost another race for Congress. The next year, Gov. Spiro T. Agnew appointed him insurance commissioner.

During his three years as commissioner, Mr. Steers fought to keep insurance rates down, opened rate hearings to the public and helped end racial and economic discrimination by stopping insurance companies from "red-lining" certain areas of Baltimore.

He served briefly as an assistant secretary of licensing and regulation before his election to the Maryland Senate in 1970.

Mr. Steers served in the Senate until 1976 when he was elected to Congress from the 8th District of Maryland. Among the legislation that he co-sponsored in the Senate was a bill to support local programs that assisted battered spouses.

During his one term in Congress, he compiled the highest liberal voting record among Republicans, according to the Americans for Democratic Action. He was defeated in his 1978 re-election bid by Democrat Michael D. Barnes.

Services for Mr. Steers will be private.

Survivors include his wife, Inge Gabriele Wirsich Irwin Steers of Bethesda, whom he married in 1978; three sons from his first marriage, Newton Ivans Steers III and Hugh Auchincloss Steers, both of New York, and Burr Gore Steers of Hollywood; and a stepson, Kristof Andreas Irwin of College Park.

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