by Jeremy Leaming
A renowned social justice leader Bob Edgar died today at age 69. Edgar was a U.S. congressman for 12 years, leader of the National Council of Churches and since 2007 the president and CEO of Common Cause. While in Congress, he served on the committee that investigated the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Edgar, who the Religion News Service’s Adelle M. Banks reports died of a heart attack, was also a “bridge builder.” As head of the National Council of Churches he helped bring together an array of faith groups to advance social justice causes. “Early on,” Banks writes, “Edgar sensed that the venerable ecumenical agency was losing its public voice, and was one of the early supporters of Christian Churches Together in the USA, which brought the NCC’s mainline Protestant, Orthodox and black churches together with evangelicals and Catholics for the first time.”
U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr., Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, worked with Edgar during his time in the Congress and noted that he was the “principal co-author of legislation that updated the G.I. bill following the abolition of the draft ….” Edgar, Conyers noted, also served on the Veterans Affairs Committee, where he worked to address concerns over the deployment of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, and of veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.”
Edgar led Common Cause a nonpartisan group devoted to ensuring Congress works efficiently and is accountable to citizens. Last year the group lodged a federal lawsuit against the use of the filibuster, which has been used primarily and with increasing frequency by Republican senators to scuttle judicial nominations and thwart popular legislation, such as modest measures to promote gun safety. Edgar in a press release about the lawsuit said the filibuster had been used to “pretty much shut the place down.” He noted that far too often it would take a supermajority or 60 senators to allow much of any action to occur.