Victims' Rights Caucus

Speeches

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor a man who spoke on this floor and wandered these historic hallowed hallways over a decade ago.

Craig Washington, a former Democratic Congressman from Texas, made a name for himself in this place of Washington and in the Lone Star State of Texas.

At home in the great State of Texas, he is best known for his courtroom mesmerizing oratory, his remarkable victories as a criminal defense lawyer and his persistent passion for helping out the little guy.

Eleven years ago, he left Congress and headed back to Texas. Now Washington is back in the spotlight again defending one of Texas' high profile clients and doing what he does best, arguing for constitutional rights, helping the downtrodden. Those are the people who need him the most.

He is gracing the front pages of the Houston Chronicle yet again, but if you ask his daughter, Chival, she claims that her dad is just a regular guy and that is one of the reasons she admires him so much.

Craig Washington was born in deep east Texas, a town called Longview. He grew up in Houston and after high school he enrolled in Prairie View A&M University at the age of 16 with the hopes of becoming a dentist. Eight years later he finally graduated with a grade point average too low to complete his plans of dentistry. He was tremendously intelligent but could not be bothered with attending classes.

In 1966 Craig Washington was introduced to the Dean of the Texas Southern University Law School. Washington had charisma and determination even at a young age, and he managed to talk the dean into accepting him into the law school program and then transferring to dentistry. But instead he was hooked on the law and looked on it for the rest of his life.

Four years later, he would graduate with honors and become the assistant dean and assistant professor of law at his alma mater.

Then in 1970, he left the university to enter private law practice, and in 1972, he was elected to the Texas State Legislature. In 1982, he was elected to the Texas States Senate. It was there he made a name for himself as the second African American to serve in the Texas State Senate since reconstruction. It seems, Mr. Speaker, the war between the States died real hard in Texas.

In 1989, his good friend, Congressman Mickey Leland, was killed in a tragic plane crash representing this body in Ethiopia. Washington was determined to continue the work that Leland started and he ran for Leland's seat and was sworn in as Leland's replacement in Congress in 1990.

His years in Congress were spent on national issues and advocating for those who had no voice. Some in Texas did not agree with the way he voted and carried himself, but inside this beltway he was seen as a star on the rise. He was a maverick. He wooed his colleagues on many issues and upset more than one organization when he voted against big issues like NAFTA and even NASA.

One particular evening on this House floor he argued against amending our Constitution to protect the flag. He said, ``I prefer a man who will burn the flag and then wrap himself in the Constitution to a man who will burn the Constitution and then wrap himself in the flag.''

That is typical Craig Washington. Although Craig Washington and I disagree on many political issues, I admire him because he never made a decision based on politics.

Eleven years ago, Washington left this Congress to return to his roots, Texas. He has a home in Bastrop, Texas, a small German town near Austin, and today Washington devotes most of his time to fighting for those who have no advocate in our courts.

When I was a prosecutor, we tried cases against each other, and I found his word and handshake were his bond, as it is today. When I became a judge, I had the opportunity to see him represent people in the most serious of accusations. In court, he spoke with the oratory of Daniel Webster