Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Richard Howard Ichord 1926-1992
Ex-Rep. Richard Ichord, 66, Dies; Led Un-American Activities Panel
Former Representative Richard H. Ichord, a fervent anti-Communist who crusaded against the peace movement during the Vietnam War and served as the last chairman of the House Un-American Activities Committee, died yesterday at a hospital in Nevada, Mo. He was 66.
He died of complications from a heart attack on Dec. 18, said his daughter, Pam Ichord Ehlers. He had divided his time in recent years between Washington and a cattle ranch in Waynesville, Mo., she said.
A conservative Democrat who represented a district in central and southern Missouri, Mr. Ichord (pronounced EYE-cord) spent 10 terms in the House of Representatives before retiring in 1981. He earned a reputation as a man preoccupied by the spread of Communism abroad and at home, where he feared radicals were trying to undermine the Federal Government.
His critics accused him of engaging in smears and witch hunts similar to the activities of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, Republican of Wisconsin, in the 1950's.
"The kooks of the right and the left say that nobody in Congress should be dealing with such problems, but I think they're wrong," Mr. Ichord said in 1974 when asked about the Un-American Activities Committee. The Communist Party in the United States, he added, "could be a real threat if the country has an economic depression of the 1930's type."
The Un-American Activities Committee earned notoriety in the 1940's and 1950's, when it investigated Alger Hiss and others accused of being Communists. Richard M. Nixon, a little-known Representative from California in that time, gained national attention from the committee's hearings.
After Mr. Ichord was named chairman of the committee in 1969, he used his position to campaign against antiwar protesters. He published a list of "radical orators" at colleges around the country, including Muhammad Ali, Angela Davis, Abbie Hoffman and Dr. Benjamin Spock. Other lawmakers said it represented an effort to stifle dissent.
Mr. Ichord also introduced a bill banning travel to countries with which the United States was at war. The bill was prompted, he said at the time, by Jane Fonda's trip to North Vietnam at the height of the war in Southeast Asia.
The committee was disbanded in 1975, a few years after it had changed its name to the House Internal Security Committee. Mr. Ichord fought to save it, maintaining that it was needed to fight terrorism, crime and other activities.
Mr. Ichord was born on June 27, 1926, in Licking, Mo. He enlisted in the Navy Air Corps in World War II and later earned his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Missouri.
When he was 32, he became the youngest speaker in the history of the Missouri House of Representatives. In 1960 he was elected to Congress, where he was known for his folksy wit. He also served as a member of the Armed Services Committee.
After he retired, he worked as a lawyer and lobbyist in Washington and served on several corporate boards. The Pentagon awarded him the Distinguished Civilian Service Award, the Army's highest honor for civilians.
Besides his daughter, he is survived by his wife, Millicent, his son Richard and three grandchildren.
Correction: December 28, 1992, Monday Because of an editing error, an obituary on Saturday about former Representative Richard H. Ichord misidentified his hometown in some copies. He lived in both Waynesville, Mo., and Washington, not in Nevada, Mo.