Antioch native Jerome Waldie worked with his "good friend" Cesar Chavez to help farmworkers unionize. He backed legislation to overhaul how the disabled are treated in California. He introduced the resolution in Congress to impeach President Richard Nixon.
Waldie died unexpectedly Friday at his Placerville home after about three months of illness. He was 84.
He adored politics, said his son, Jon Waldie.
"He'd always been active in politics," Jon Waldie said. "He just felt he could make a contribution."
Waldie, a World War II veteran, set up shop as an attorney in Antioch before being elected to the state Assembly in 1959.
He became majority leader in 1961 and held the post through his election in 1965 to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served until 1975, according to the U.S. Congress Web site.
In 1974, he ran an unsuccessful campaign for governor of California.
During his time in the Assembly, he was most proud of his work with Chavez's United Farm Workers of America and on the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, which ended the institutionalization of the mentally handicapped, Jon Waldie said.
In 1973, it was written in The Washington Post that he was one of the first members of Congress to call for Nixon's impeachment. He introduced the resolution to impeach Nixon.
Other East County politicians looked up to him.
Former Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla, of Pittsburg, worked on his campaign for governor.
He was a grass-roots politician who was a friendly straight-shooter, Canciamilla said.
"He was very much focused on what was happening at the local levels," Canciamilla said, even frequently returning to Antioch while working in Washington, D.C.
After his campaign for governor, he stayed in Washington through 1980, working in President Jimmy Carter's administration.
He moved to Placerville when Gov. Jerry Brown appointed him to the California Agricultural Relations Board in 1981. He served through 1985.
He kept returning to Antioch throughout his life, keeping in touch with local politicians and speaking to the historical society.
Waldie Plaza in Antioch is named in his honor.
"The city felt his significance to the point that they named the plaza after (him), the only person I know of from Antioch who went to Congress," said Elizabeth Rimbault, president of the Antioch Historical Society Museum.
Jon Waldie remembers his father's "wicked sense of humor."
"He just was a very successful individual who was very humble," Jon Waldie said.
He is survived by his wife, Joanne; his children Jill, Jon and Jeff; seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
A memorial will be held this summer in Lake Tahoe. The date has not been set.
His family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the League to Save Lake Tahoe, United Farm Workers or any state Democratic Party.
Reach Paul Thissen at 925-943-8163 or firstname.lastname@example.org.