EESI Board Member and former Representative Bob Edgar (D-PA), who had been president and CEO of Common Cause since 2007, passed away on Tuesday, April 23, one month shy of his 70th birthday. All of us at EESI are shocked and deeply saddened by the news and extend our heartfelt condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.
EESI Executive Director Carol Werner, who had first worked with Bob in the mid-1980s when he was in Congress, spoke of a sense of deep personal loss as well as a loss to our society, "Bob was an amazing person who made such a difference in so many ways. What a loss for so many and for our country. My personal sadness is overwhelming – we have been so fortunate to have Bob on our board... and to know him. He has always been an incredible model for public service and the values of a democratic society. He brought great energy, courage, wisdom, leadership, unflagging commitment and a wonderful sense of humor to all he did."
Carol Werner added that Bob had just sent an e-mail the day before he passed away, telling us that he had signed another two-year contract with Common Cause because, he said, retirement is overrated.
EESI Board Member Claudine Schneider (former Representative, R-RI), was also deeply affected. "Having just spent time with Bob a few weeks ago," she said, "the news of his passing is both shocking and sad. We served in Congress together and I could always count on his support for initiatives related to women, minorities, the environment, and peace. When we last spoke, he made it clear that he had no intention of retiring until we realized justice and peace on Earth. May his peace continue to stimulate our own."
Bob Edgar, an ordained United Methodist minister, was a selfless public servant during his 12 years in Congress, representing suburban Philadelphia as a Democratic member of the House. Bob Edgar was a man whose faith drove his passion for public service. First elected in 1974 in the wake of the Watergate scandal, he campaigned against “pork barrel” legislation, led efforts to improve public transportation, promoted environmental issues, and authored the Community Right to Know provision of Super Fund legislation. He was a particularly strong advocate for Vietnam military veterans, battling for better mental health support to treat conditions such as post traumatic stress disorder. He served as co-chair of the Northeast-Midwest Congressional Coalition, and was a founding member of the Environmental and Energy Study Conference and Institute.
After an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate in 1986, Bob Edgar became a crusader against the overpowering influence of money in politics. His support for clean elections and campaign finance reform led him to Common Cause, a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to restoring the core values of American democracy. He first served on its National Governing Board, before becoming its CEO and President.
According to Common Cause Board Chair Robert Reich , "Bob will be remembered for his decency, kindness, compassion and humor. His deep commitment to social justice and strengthening our democracy is his greatest gift to Common Cause and the nation. Our hearts are with Bob’s family, his wife Merle, and sons Andrew, David and Rob, and their families."
After leaving Congress he served as president of the Claremont School of Theology in Claremont, CA, for 10 years. He then led the National Council of Churches for seven years, and wrote Middle Church . The book recounts the story of his life and calls for people of faith – Christians, Muslims, and Jews – to take back the moral high ground and make America a less divided country.
Besides EESI’s board, Mr. Edgar also sat on the boards of the National Coalition on Health Care, the National Foundation on Alternative Medicine, Drew University and the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.