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Frank Church

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Frank Church

Frank Church
United States Senator
from Idaho
In office
January 3, 1957 – January 3, 1981
Preceded by Herman Welker
Succeeded by Steve Symms
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
In office
January 3, 1979 – January 3, 1981
Preceded by John J. Sparkman
Succeeded by Charles H. Percy
Personal details
Born Frank Forrester Church III
(1924-07-25)July 25, 1924
Boise, Idaho
Died April 7, 1984(1984-04-07) (aged 59)
Bethesda, Maryland
Resting place Morris Hill Cemetery
Boise, Idaho
Nationality United States
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Bethine Clark Church
(m. 1947–1984, his death)
Children Frank Forrester Church IV
Chase Clark Church
(b. 1957)
Parents Frank Forrester Church II
Laura Bilderback Church
Residence Boise, Idaho
Bethesda, Maryland [1]
Alma mater Stanford University
(B.A. 1947, J.D. 1950)
Profession Attorney
Religion Presbyterian
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch U.S. Army
Years of service 1943–1946
Rank  Second lieutenant
Unit Intelligence,
China-Burma-India theater
Battles/wars World War II

Frank Forrester Church III (July 25, 1924 – April 7, 1984) was an American lawyer and politician. A member of the Democratic Party, he served as a United States Senator from Idaho from 1957 to 1981.[2][3]

Church was an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 1976 presidential election, losing to Jimmy Carter. He is known for heading the Church Committee, which investigated abuses in the U.S. intelligence agencies.


  • Early life 1
  • Political career 2
    • Vietnam War and Church Committee 2.1
      • NSA monitoring of Senator Church's communications 2.1.1
    • Environmental record and other issues 2.2
    • Late political career 2.3
    • Election results 2.4
  • Death 3
  • Legacy 4
    • Warning about the NSA 4.1
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8

Early life

Born and raised in Boise, Idaho, Church was the younger of the two sons of Frank (II) and Laura Bilderback Church.[4] His father co-owned a sporting goods store and took the sons on fishing, hunting, and hiking outings in the Idaho mountains.[5] The family was Catholic and conservative, and Frank III attended St. Joseph's School as a youngster,[6] where he went by the nickname "Frosty."[7] His older brother Richard became a career officer in the U.S. Marines Corps, and retired as a colonel.[4]

In his youth, Church admired William E. Borah, who represented Idaho in the U.S. Senate from 1907 to 1940. Church graduated from Boise High School in 1942, where he served as student body president. As a junior in 1941, he won the American Legion National Oratorical Contest. The prize was sufficient to provide for four years at the college of the winner's choice. Church enrolled at Stanford University in California in 1942 and joined Theta Xi fraternity.

Church enlisted in the

United States Senate
Preceded by
David Worth Clark
Democratic Party nominee for the U.S. Senator (Class 3) seat from Idaho
1956 (won), 1962 (won), 1968 (won), 1974 (won), 1980 (lost)
Succeeded by
John V. Evans
Preceded by
Herman Welker
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Idaho
January 3, 1957 – January 5, 1981
Served alongside: Henry Dworshak, Leonard B. Jordan, James A. McClure
Succeeded by
Steve Symms
Preceded by
Harrison A. Williams
Chairman of the U.S. Senate Aging Committee
1971 – 1979
Succeeded by
Lawton Chiles
Preceded by
John Sparkman
Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee
January 3, 1979 – January 3, 1981
Succeeded by
Charles H. Percy
Preceded by
Russell Long
Youngest Member of the U.S. Senate
January 3, 1957 – June 15, 1961
Succeeded by
John Tower
  • Frank Church at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  • Encyclopedia of World Biography – Frank Forrester Church III
  • Boise State University -The Frank Church Institute
    • BSU Library: Special Collections - The Frank Church Papers
    • BSU Library – tribute to Bethine Church
  • Frank Church—River of No Return Wilderness (PDF) - user's guide
  • Boise High School's Hall of Fame
  • Morris Hill Cemetery - Boise, ID - Walking Tour
  • Frank Church at Find a Grave
  • Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt Institute – Frank and Bethine Church
  • Frank Church for President – 1976 campaign brochure

External links

  • Ashby, LeRoy. "Frank Church Goes to the Senate: The Idaho Election of 1956." Pacific Northwest Quarterly 78 (January–April 1987): 17-31.
  • Ashby, LeRoy, and Rod Gramer. Fighting the Odds: The Life of Senator Frank Church. Pullman: Washington State University Press, 1994.
  • Church, F. Forrester. Father and Son: A Personal Biography of Senator Frank Church of Idaho by His Son'
  • Dant, Sara. "Making Wilderness Work: Frank Church and the American Wilderness Movement." Pacific Historical Review 77 (May 2008): 237-272.
  • Ewert, Sara E. Dant. "The Conversion of Senator Frank Church: Evolution of an Environmentalist." Ph.D. dissertation, Washington State University, 2000.
  • Ewert, Sara E. Dant. "Evolution of an Environmentalist: Senator Frank Church and the Hells Canyon Controversy." Montana: The Magazine of Western History 51 (Spring 2001): 36-51.
  • Ewert, Sara E. Dant. "Peak Park Politics: The Struggle over the Sawtooths, from Borah to Church." Pacific Northwest Quarterly (Summer 2000): 138-149.
  • Hall, Bill. Frank Church, D.C., and Me. Pullman, Washington: Washington State University Press, 1995. ISBN 978-0-87422-119-0

Further reading

  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ p. 121. Schmitz uses the example of "The Doves Have Won and Don't Know It" September 6, 1970 on CBS television, 2.2/32/IS, FCP; "The Doves Have Won," September 11, 1970 (Source of the "highest concept of patriotism..." quote), speech at Mills College of Education; "The Doves are Winning — Don't Despair," September 26, 1970, speech at Colorado State University and "The Unsung Victory of the Doves," December 1970, 10.6/8/8 FCP.
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ a b The Guardian, 26 Sept. 2013, "Declassified NSA Files Show Agency Spied on Muhammad Ali and MLK Operation Minaret Set Up in 1960s to Monitor Anti-Vietnam Critics, Branded 'Disreputable If Not Outright Illegal' by NSA Itself,"
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^ National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization: History of Hospice
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^ p. 20.
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^ a b
  41. ^ a b
  42. ^

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.


See also

Commentators such as U.S. constitutional lawyer and columnist Glenn Greenwald have praised Church for his prescient warning regarding this turning around by the NSA to monitor the American people, arguing that the NSA undertook such a turning in the years after the September 11 Attacks.[42]

Church was stunned by what the Church Committee learned about the immense operations and electronic monitoring capabilities of the National Security Agency (NSA), an agency whose existence was unknown to most Americans at the time. Church stated in 1975: "That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide."[40][41] He is widely quoted as also stating regarding the NSA: "I don't want to see this country ever go across the bridge... I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return."[40][41]

Warning about the NSA

As of 2015, Church was the last Democrat to serve in the U.S. Senate from Idaho.

Church received an honorary doctorate from Pennsylvania's Elizabethtown College in 1983 to honor his work for the American people during his career in public office. His papers, originally given to his alma mater Stanford University in 1981, were transferred to Boise State University at his request in 1984.


Three years after leaving the Senate, Church was hospitalized for a pancreatic tumor on January 12, 1984. Less than three months later, he died at his home in Bethesda, Maryland, on April 7 at age 59.[2][3] A memorial service was held at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.[31] and then his body was flown home to Idaho, where he lay in state beneath the rotunda of the Idaho State Capitol.[32][33] His funeral was held in downtown Boise at the Cathedral of the Rockies on April 12 and televised throughout Idaho. Church was buried at Morris Hill Cemetery near his boyhood hero, Senator William Borah.[34][35][36] His parents and paternal grandparents are also buried at Morris Hill, in the St. John's Catholic section.[37] His maternal grandparents are buried across town in the Pioneer Cemetery,[38] as are the Bayhouse great-grandparents.[39]


Following his 24 years in the Senate, Church practiced international law with the Washington, D.C., firm of Whitman and Ransom, specializing in Asian issues.

U.S. Senate elections in Idaho (Class III): Results 1956–1980
Year Democrat Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct
1956 Frank Church 149,096 56.2% Herman Welker (inc.) 102,781 38.7% Glen H. Taylor Write-In 13,415 5.1%
1962 Frank Church (inc.) 141,657 54.7% Jack Hawley 117,129 45.3%
1968 Frank Church (inc.) 173,482 60.3% George V. Hansen 114,394 39.7%
1974 Frank Church (inc.) 145,140 56.1% Bob Smith 109,072 42.1% Jean L. Stoddard American 4,635 1.8%
1980 Frank Church (inc.) 214,439 48.8% Steve Symms 218,701 49.7% Larry Fullmer Libertarian 6,507 1.5%

Election results

Church lost in his attempt for a fifth term to Symms by less than one percent of the vote. His defeat was blamed on the activities of the Anybody But Church Committee and the national media's early announcement of Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan's overwhelming win in Idaho. These predictions were broadcast before polls closed statewide, specifically in the Pacific Time Zone in the north. Many believed that this caused many Democrats in the more politically moderate Idaho Panhandle to not vote at all. As of 2013, Church is the last Democrat to represent Idaho in the U.S. Senate.

In the late 1970s, Church was a main congressional supporter of the Torrijos-Carter Treaties, which proposed to return the Panama Canal to Panama. The latter position proved to be widely unpopular in Idaho and led to the formation of the "Anybody But Church Committee" (ABC), committee created by the National Conservative Political Action Committee (NCPAC), based in Washington, D.C. ABC and NCPAC had no formal connection with the 1980 Senate campaign of conservative Republican congressman Steve Symms, which permitted them, under former Federal election law, to spend as much as they could raise to defeat Church.[30]

By June, Carter had the nomination sufficiently locked up and could take time to interview potential vice-presidential candidates. The pundits predicted that Church would be tapped to provide balance as an experienced senator with strong liberal credentials. Church promoted himself, persuading friends to intervene with Carter in his behalf. If a quick choice had been required as in past conventions, Carter later recalled, he would probably have chosen Church. But the longer period for deliberation gave Carter time to worry about his compatibility with the publicity-seeking Church, who had a tendency to be long-winded. Instead, Carter invited Senators Henry M. Jackson, and Adlai Stevenson III would be interviewed at the convention in New York. Of all the potential candidates, Carter found Mondale the most compatible. As a result, Carter selected Mondale as his running mate.

In 1976, Church belatedly sought the Jimmy Carter. Church remains the only Idahoan to win a major-party presidential primary election.

From left: Senator Joe Biden, Senator Frank Church and President of Egypt Anwar Sadat after signing Egyptian–Israeli Peace Treaty, 1979

Late political career

He also sponsored the "conscience clause," which prohibited the government from requiring church-affiliated hospitals to perform abortions.[7]

In late 1975 and early 1976, a sub-committee of the U.S. Senate led by Church concluded that members of the Lockheed board had paid members of friendly governments to guarantee contracts for military aircraft[27] in a series of illegal bribes and contributions made by Lockheed officials from the late 1950s to the 1970s. In 1976, it was publicly revealed that Lockheed had paid $22 million in bribes to foreign officials[28] in the process of negotiating the sale of aircraft including the F-104 Starfighter, the so-called "Deal of the Century."

Frank Church was considered a progressive (remarkable considering that he represented one of the most conservative states in the nation), though he was a strong opponent of gun control. He, in 1979, was the first in Congress to disclose and protest the presence of Soviet combat troops in Cuba. According to the Christian Science Monitor, this stance somewhat disarmed his opponent's charge in the 1980 campaign that Church's performance on the Foreign Relations Committee had helped to weaken the US militarily.[25] In 1974, Church joined Senator Frank Moss, D-Utah, to sponsor the first legislation to provide federal funding for hospice care programs. The bill did not have widespread support and was not brought to a vote. Congress finally included a hospice benefit in Medicare in 1982.[26]

Church also was instrumental in the creation of Idaho's River of No Return Wilderness in 1980, his final year in the Senate. This wilderness comprised the old Idaho Primitive Area, the Salmon River Breaks Primitive Area, plus additional lands. At 2.36 million acres (9,550 km²), over 3,600 square miles (9,300 km2), it is the largest wilderness area in the nation outside of Alaska. It was renamed the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness in 1984, shortly after the diagnosis of his pancreatic cancer. Idaho Senator Jim McClure introduced the measure in the Senate in late February,[23] and President Reagan signed the act on March 14,[24] less than four weeks before Frank Church's death on April 7.

Church is also remembered for his voting record as a strong progressive and environmental legislator, and he played a major role in the creation of the nation's system of protected wilderness areas in the 1960s. In 1964, Church was the floor sponsor of the national Sawtooth Wilderness and National Recreation Area in central Idaho in 1972.

Environmental record and other issues

In a secret operation code-named "Project Minaret," the National Security Agency (NSA) monitored the communications of leading Americans, including Senators Church and Howard Baker, Dr. Martin Luther King, prominent U.S. journalists and athletes, who criticized the U.S. war in Vietnam.[22] A review by NSA of the NSA's Minaret program concluded that Minaret was "disreputable if not outright illegal."[22]

NSA monitoring of Senator Church's communications

Daniel Ellsberg quoted Church as speaking of the NSA as follows: "I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return."[18] More specifically on August 17, 1975 Senator Frank Church stated on NBC's "Meet the Press" without mentioning the name of the NSA about this agency:

Church gained national prominence during his service in the Senate through his chairmanship of the U.S. Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities from 1975 through 1976, more commonly known as the Church Committee, which conducted extensive hearings investigating extra-legal FBI and CIA intelligence-gathering and covert operations. The committee investigated CIA drug smuggling activities in the Golden Triangle and secret U.S.-backed wars in Third World countries.[14][15][16][17] Together with Senator Sam Ervin's committee inquiries, the Church Committee hearings laid the groundwork for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.

Church argued that the opponents of the Vietnam War needed to prevent the corruption of the nation and its institutions. To Church, the anti-war opposition was the "highest concept of patriotism—which is not the patriotism of conformity—but the patriotism of Senator Carl Schurz, a dissenter from an earlier period, who proclaimed: 'Our country right or wrong. When right, to be kept right: when wrong, to be put right."[13]

In September 1970, Church announced on television and in speeches across the country that "the doves had won." Author David F. Schmitz states that Church based his assertion on the fact that two key propositions of the anti-war movement, "A negotiated peace and the withdrawal of American troops," were now official policy. The only debate that remained would be over when to withdraw, not whether to withdraw, and over the meaning of the war. Church concluded:

Church was a key figure in American foreign policy during the 1970s, and served as chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations from 1979 to 1981. Following the instinct that led him to ask questions early on (see above), Church was one of the first senators to publicly oppose the Vietnam War in the 1960s, although he had supported the conflict earlier. He was the co-author of two legislative efforts to curtail the war: the Cooper–Church Amendment of 1970, and the Case–Church Amendment of 1973.

Vietnam War and Church Committee

"It must be pointed out that a United States senator is not a state officer but a federal officer whose position is created by Article I, Section I of the United States Constitution," Shepard wrote in a June 17, 1967, opinion for the secretary of state. "There seems to be no provision for canvassing the votes of a recall election of a United States senator." Most commentators at the time believed that the recall attempt strengthened Church politically by allowing him to play the role of political martyr and he was reelected in the next year's election over Republican Congressman George V. Hansen 60% to 40%.

In 1967, a recall campaign was waged against Church by Ron Rankin, a Republican county commissioner in Kootenai County in northern Idaho. Rankin unsuccessfully sued Idaho's secretary of state to accept recall petitions. The U.S. District Court for Idaho ruled that the state's recall laws did not apply to U.S. senators and that such a recall would violate the U.S. Constitution. Allan Shepard, Idaho's attorney general at the time, agreed with the court's decision.

Upon entering the Senate in January 1957, Church made the mistake of voting on a measure against the wishes of Democratic Majority Leader, Lyndon Johnson, and Johnson punished Church by all but ignoring him for the next six months. Church found solace from Republican Minority Leader, William Knowland. However, Church managed to find his way into Johnson's good graces by providing key assistance in getting the Civil Rights Act of 1957 passed. LBJ was so grateful he made the young Idahoan a veritable protégé, rewarding him with plum assignments, such as a seat on the prestigious Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a position which allowed Church to follow in the footsteps of his idol, William Borah. Recently declassified documents show that the young veteran also challenged his mentor, behind closed doors, after the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident,[12] making this prescient warning: "In a democracy you cannot expect the people, whose sons are being killed and who will be killed, to exercise their judgment if the truth is concealed from them."

Church became an active Democrat in Idaho and after an unsuccessful try for the state legislature in 1952, he ran for the U.S. Senate in 1956. After a closely contested primary election against former Senator Glen H. Taylor, Church handily defeated Republican incumbent Herman Welker in the general election. At the age of 32, Church became the fifth youngest member ever to sit in the U.S. Senate. Church was reelected three times (1962, 1968 and 1974), the only Democrat ever to win reelection to the U.S. Senate from Idaho.

Political career

Frank and Bethine had two sons, Frank Forrester Church IV, who died in 2009, and Chase Clark Church,[11] who lives in Boise. Both boys were named for their grandfathers.

In June 1947 he married Bethine Clark, daughter of Chase Clark, a former Democratic governor of Idaho and the federal judge for the state. The wedding took place at the secluded Robinson Bar Ranch (), the Clark family's ranch in the mountains east of Stanley (and now owned by singer Carole King, since 1981).[8][9] He entered Harvard Law School that fall and after one year at Harvard, Church transferred to Stanford Law School, when he thought the cold Massachusetts winter was the cause of a pain in his lower back. The pain did not go away and the problem was soon diagnosed as testicular cancer.[10] After one of his testicles and glands in his lower abdomen were removed, Church was given only a few months to live. However, he rebounded from the illness after another doctor started X-ray treatments. This second chance led him to later reflect that "life itself is such a chancy proposition that the only way to live is by taking great chances." In 1950, Church graduated from Stanford Law School and returned to Boise to practice law and teach public speaking at the junior college.

[5] honors.Phi Beta Kappa in political science in 1947, with bachelor's degree. Following his discharge in 1946, he returned to Stanford to complete his education, receiving his China-Burma-India theater officer in the military intelligence on his 20th birthday in 1944 and served as a second lieutenant He was commissioned a [2]

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