Clarence Long

September 20, 1994

The relationship between this newspaper and Clarence D. Long, who represented the 2d District in Congress 1963-1985, started out sweet and ended up sour. But we always respected Mr. Long, who died Monday at Stella Maris at age 85, as a truly intellectual academic specialist in a world -- political office -- where such are few. We complimented him for offering ideas when he ran unsuccessfully for a Senate nomination in the 1950s, and we endorsed him, sometimes emphatically, when he ran successfully for election and re-election to the House in the 1960s.

The falling out between us started when he delayed the authorization of the parallel bay bridge and intensified when he delayed even longer efforts to dredge the channel to the Port of Baltimore. In both those efforts and in such things as demanding that other suburbs accept "their share" of low cost housing before Baltimore County, the heart of his district, be forced to take its, he put narrow local interests above broader ones.

He preferred a bay crossing from eastern Baltimore County, and he opposed dredging because he feared the spoil would be dumped at the Hart and Miller islands, ruining them as recreational areas for so many of his constituents. When criticized for such "parochialism," he quoted Madison and others of the nation's founders about the importance of responsiveness to constituents' views, no matter how narrow. He liked to say, "Constituent service builds the grass roots support that can give independence of bosses, pressure groups, popular passion and the newspapers."

He may not have been the first to use his congressional office as a 365-days-a-year service center, but he certainly perfected the DTC practice. His was a model office for those in his district who had a problem with government (and it was also an early model for sexual and racial fairness in hiring). He won several elections by margins of 2-1 and 3-1.

He was finally ousted from office, thanks to redistricting, Ronald Reagan's 1984 coattails and, in the view of some, ironically, his increased attention to the foreign relations his subcommittee chairmanship required of him. Upon his defeat this newspaper urged his successor to maintain the Long approach to constituent service.

Mr. Long was more than a politician and office-holder. He had a distinguished career as a Ph.D.-holding economist before going to Congress (where he was "Doc" to friend and adversary). He was a member of the Johns Hopkins faculty and before that was a fellow at Princeton's prestigious Institute for Advanced Study. He was the author of seven books and numerous articles on unemployment, wages and the labor force.

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