Guest Author - Evelyn Rainey
Representative Bob Filner is known as California’s Border Congressman. He is also Democratic Leader of the House of Representatives Veterans’ Affairs Committee. Ironically enough, Bob (as his website likes to refer to him) never served in the military. Rather, he has battled against injustice within our nation as a participant of the Freedom Rides of 1961. He was never a prisoner of war, but he served two months in a Mississippi jail for his acts of bravery against racial tyranny of that time.
Robert Earl Filner was born September 4, 1942 in Pittsburgh. He graduated from Cornell in 1963 with a degree in chemistry and earned a doctorate in history of science in 1969. For twenty years, he was a history professor at San Diego State University and eventually resigned from teaching to run for Congress in 1992.
He began representing the 50th District, which was almost one-half Hispanic. The district was later redrawn into the 51st District (over one-half Hispanic) and Bob won with wide margins every two years up until 2010. An exceptional feat for a middle-aged white Jew? Not when you consider that this man was -- what Wikipedia calls -- one of the notable participants of the Freedom Rides. Bob Filner was comrades-in-arms with the likes of James Peck (the only person to participate in both the Journey of Reconciliation of 1947 and the first Freedom Ride of 1961), James L. Farmer Jr. , (the first leader of Congress of Racial Equality CORE and coined the name Freedom Ride), John Lewis (a member of the Democratic Party who has represented Georgia's 5th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives since 1987), Stokely Carmichael (born Kwame Ture, a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee SNCC and known as the Honorary Prime Minister of the Black Panther Party who coined the term Black Power), and Ruby Doris Smith-Robinson (SNCC's only woman executive secretary). Granted, there were well over 450 riders (approximately 75% were males under the age of 30, equally divided between black and white), but Bob Filner is counted as a notable veteran of this turbulent time in America’s history.
Politically active all his adult life, Bob has served as a staffer for Senator Hubert Humphrey (1975) and for Congressman Don Fraser (1976) both of Minnesota; as well as for Congressman Jim Bates from San Diego (1984). Bob served on the San Diego City Council for five years. In 1991 he served as Deputy Mayor for the City of San Diego. In 1992 he was elected to Congress and was re-elected every two years until 2010. In 2007, Bob became Chairman of the House of Representatives Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
As such, Bob is most known for his work on the Benefits for Filipino World War II Veterans (for which he received honorary Filipino citizenship in Feb. 2009), Bill H.R.23 to establish the Merchant Mariner Equity Compensation Fund and the Task Force on Returning Global War on Terror Heroes In the summary letter to the president, Bob states, Of particular note, the Department of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) will develop a joint process of assigning disability ratings that can be used to determine fitness for military retention, level of disability for retirement, and VA disability compensation. DoD and VA will also develop a system of co-management and case management that promotes better continuity of care for injured GWOT servicemembers.)
For his work on behalf of veterans, Bob is a recipient of the L. Mendel Rivers Award of Excellence (presented by the Air Force Sergeants Association, August 2001). Bob has also received other awards presented by the Paralyzed Veterans Association, the Retired Enlisted Association, the American Legion, the Jewish War Veterans, the National Gulf War Resource Center and the American Gold Star Mothers.
His political website (see below) also lists many other efforts Bob is making on behalf of our veterans.
Bob Filner is an exceptional man. He isn’t a member of what is now termed an under-represented population, yet he fought for Civil Rights. He isn’t a veteran, yet he fights for each and every American veteran. As Chairman of the House of Representative’s Committee on Veteran Affairs, he continues to be an exceptional warrior.
As the newly appointed Democratic Leader of the House of Representatives Veterans Affairs' Committee, I am committed to serving the men and women who have risked their lives for our freedom. You can help fellow veterans by being informed and knowledgeable about the legislation that directly affects American veterans. I encourage you to contact your Member of Congress, write letters to the Editor, call talk radio shows, and be vocal about your support for veterans legislation. — Bob