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Former U.S. Congressman Vander Jagt succumbs at age 75

Architect of foreign trade policies


Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

WASHINGTON, DC The U.S. Congressman who successfully spearheaded the campaign to proclaim November 16 Dutch American Heritage Day in 1991 in recognition of The First Salute by foreign authorities (on the Dutch Caribbean island of St. Eustatius) to the American flag in 1776, recently passed away in Washington, D.C. after a courageous battle with cancer. Guy Vander Jagt was 75.

Known as one of the finest orators in the U.S. Congress, Vander Jagt represented Michigan's 9th Congressional District, which includes Holland, for 26 years, from 1966 until 1993. He was chosen by President Ronald Reagan to give the keynote address at the 1980 Republican National Convention in Detroit. He also served as Chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee for 18 years and laid the groundwork for Republican control of the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in over 40 years.

Born in Cadillac, Michigan on August 26, 1931, he was the son of Dutch immigrant Harry Vander Jagt and his wife, Marie (Copier). Vander Jagt worked his way through Hope College and continued on to Yale Divinity School and Michigan Law School. During his early law practice he met his future wife, Carol Doorn. Shortly after their wedding, he was elected to the Michigan State Senate, and then two years later to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he began his long career of national service.

President Richard Nixon tapped Vander Jagt to be his personal representative to Asia to outline the "Nixon Doctrine" and later sent Vander Jagt on missions to eight African nations. Vander Jagt was also one of the architects of much of the international trade legislation of the 1980s and a top negotiator of the federal tax reductions championed by President Reagan.

Vander Jagt was succeeded in Congress by another son of Dutch immigrants, Holland furniture executive Peter Hoekstra, now a ranking Republican. Vander Jagt returned to his legal career. He is survived by his wife, Carol and his daughter, Virginia.

Funeral services were held on the Hope College Campus in Holland, Michigan. The burial took place in Cadillac, Michigan, and a memorial service was scheduled later in Washington, D.C.