Sunday, June 19, 2016

Congressman Jake Pickle

James Jarrell Pickle (October 11, 1913 – June 18, 2005), also known as "J.J. 'Jake' Pickle", was a United States Representative from the 10th congressional district of Texas from 1963 to 1995.

Pickle was born in Roscoe, Texas. He acquired his nickname Jake from a mischievous character he portrayed in a family play when he was four years old. Pickle was an Eagle Scout and recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America.

Pickle attended the public schools in Big Spring and received his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Texas at Austin where he was a member of the 1934 Southwest Conference championship swimming team and the student body president as a senior in 1937. He was also a member of the Friar Society. Pickle was introduced by future governor John Connally to Congressman Lyndon Johnson, who served as his political mentor. He assisted the latter in his 1940 election campaign and assisted Lady Bird Johnson in running the Congressional office. When the United States entered WWII, Pickle joined the Navy as a gunnery officer and was stationed on the USS St. Louis and the USS Miami, surviving three torpedo attacks. When the war ended, he, Johnson, and Connally helped found a radio station (KVET) in Austin, Texas. After 10 years in the advertising business, he joined the Democratic Election Executive Committee of Texas in 1957.

From 1961 to 1963, Pickle was a member of the Texas Employment Commission, since renamed the Texas Workforce Commission. He served under appointment of Governor Price Daniel.

Pickle was elected as a Democrat to the 88th Congress, by special election, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of United States Representative Homer Thornberry, who became a U.S. District judge. Pickle was reelected 15 times before retiring at the conclusion of his 1993-94 term. His campaign trademark was a "squeaky pickle" rubber toy he handed out to those he met in area parades.

While in the House, Pickle rose through the ranks to become the third ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee. He was one of only six Southern Congressmen to vote for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and went on to play a key role in passing major Social Security reform legislation in 1983 to save the system from insolvency. The reforms increased the payroll tax rate, slowly increased the full benefit retirement age to 67 and taxed some of the benefits. He considered this legislation his greatest accomplishment.

Pickle was able to steer research money to the University of Texas, and today the University's J. J. Pickle Research Campus is named in his honor. He was influential in the city of Austin, as well, most notably for relocating Austin's main airport from Robert Mueller Municipal Airport to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. He was also instrumental in bringing the SEMATECH and the MCC consortia to Austin.

Afterword by the Blog Author

Pickle as a congressman had a long and fanatical hatred for non-profit organizations.  He thought they were doing work that would be better performed in the public sector through public taxation.  Therefore, as a key member of the House Ways and Means Committee, he incessantly pushed for additional reporting requirements and criminal penalties for non-profit organizations that fail to comply with uniquely complex and onerous requirements in reporting their activities and taxable income for certain activities that compete with for-profit entities.

Pickle was despised by most attorneys and certified public accountants who dealt with non-profit matters as a regular part of their professions.  This was especially true for dealings with tax exempt non-profits operating under IRS Code 501(c)(3).  These lawyers and CPAs danced with joy when it was announced in 1994 that Pickle wasn’t running for another term as a Texas congressman.  As a group, they did not see religious organizations nor charitable entities as forgettable institutions duplicating work that could be performed as well by government.

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