Howard Metzenbaum

Howard Metzenbaum
Howard Metzenbaum
United States Senator
from Ohio
In office
January 4, 1974 – December 23, 1974
Appointed by John J. Gilligan
Preceded by William B. Saxbe
Succeeded by John H. Glenn, Jr.
In office
December 29, 1976 – January 3, 1995
Preceded by Robert Taft, Jr.
Succeeded by Mike DeWine
Personal details
Born June 4, 1917(1917-06-04)
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
Died March 12, 2008(2008-03-12) (aged 90)
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S.
Resting place Mayfield Cemetery,
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Nationality American
Political party Democratic
Religion Judaism

Howard Morton Metzenbaum (June 4, 1917 – March 12, 2008) was an American politician who served for almost 20 years as a Democratic member of the U.S. Senate from Ohio (1974, 1976–1995). He also served in the Ohio House of Representatives and Senate from 1943 to 1951.



Early life

Metzenbaum was born in Cleveland, to a poor Jewish family, the son of Anna (née Klafter) and Charles I. Metzenbaum. He graduated from Ohio State University, receiving a bachelor's degree in 1939 and a law degree in 1941. During the 1940s, he practiced law in Cleveland, mostly for large labor unions, first the Communications Workers of America and then the International Association of Machinists.

Political & business career

Metzenbaum served in the Ohio House of Representatives from 1943 to 1947. He then served in the Ohio Senate from 1947 to 1951. In 1958, he was the campaign manager for U.S. Senator Stephen M. Young, who narrowly unseated Republican Senator John Bricker, the Republican Party's nominee for Vice President in 1944, in a major upset.

Metzenbaum became independently wealthy through investments, particularly in real estate near what became the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, which Metzenbaum and his partner, Alva "Ted" Bonda, correctly envisioned would make for extremely profitable, 24-hour, well-lit parking lots. The business expanded to become APCOA, the world's largest parking lot company.[1] By 1970 he had sold his interest in his airport parking lot company for $20 million.[2] In the early 1970s, Metzenbaum co-owned the Sun Newspapers chain of weeklies in the Cleveland suburbs.[3] Bonda and Metzenbaum also started one of the country's first car-rental companies, now Avis.[1]

In 1970, Metzenbaum ran for the Senate seat of his former employer, Young, defeating John Glenn, the first American astronaut to orbit the earth, in the Democratic primary by a 51% to 49% margin. But Metzenbaum narrowly lost to Robert Taft, Jr. in the general election. Metzenbaum then ran a group of weekly newspapers in the Cleveland area. In 1974, when Senator William B. Saxbe (R-OH) resigned from his seat to accept the nomination as U.S. attorney general, Governor Jack Gilligan appointed Metzenbaum to fill out the remainder of Saxbe's term. Metzenbaum ran for election to the seat, but in a bitter Democratic primary, Metzenbaum lost to Glenn, who subsequently won the general election by a landslide.

In the 1974 Senate primary race, Metzenbaum contrasted his strong business background with Glenn's military and astronaut credentials, saying his opponent had "never worked for a living." Glenn's reply came to be known as the "Gold Star Mothers" speech. He told Metzenbaum to go to a veterans' hospital and "look those men with mangled bodies in the eyes and tell them they didn't hold a job. You go with me to any Gold Star mother and you look her in the eye and tell her that her son did not hold a job." Many felt the "Gold Star Mothers" speech won the primary for Glenn.[1] Glenn won the primary by 54 to 46%.

In 1976, however, Metzenbaum sought a rematch against Taft. The race was close again, but this time he won, riding on Jimmy Carter's coattails. Taft resigned the seat a few days before his term ended, allowing Metzenbaum to be sworn in a few days early and hence have a small edge in seniority over other senators newly elected in 1976. He was reelected in 1982, comfortably defeating Republican state Senator Paul Pfeifer. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Glenn and Metzenbaum had strained relations. There was a thaw in 1983 when Metzenbaum endorsed Glenn for president. In 1981, Metzenbaum was insulted on the floor of the Senate when Senator Ernest Hollings of South Carolina called him the "senator from B'nai Brith". Some interpreted this as a slur on Metzenbaum's Jewish faith. Hollings later apologized to Metzenbaum and the remarks were stricken from the record.

Metzenbaum showed skepticism to corporations and agencies in trying to protect consumers from aspartame. An allegation was that the G. D. Searle & Company was trying to bring aspartame to market and get aspartame approved by submitting false data to the FDA. Senator Metzenbaum berated Searle's flawed and fabricated tests and also faulted the AMA whose journal (JAMA) reported, with some significant disclaimers, that aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet) was safe for most people.

Senator Metzenbaum, referring to the report said, " I wish that this (JAMA) report could ease my concerns. It does not. It merely restates the FDA position, which relies solely on the Searle tests. As I have indicated these tests are under a cloud. In addition, the concerns raised recently by the scientists... were not even included in the report." In 1985, the U.S. Senate heard testimony relating to an amendment by Senator Howard Metzenbaum which would require the quantity of aspartame in a product to be labeled.

In 1988, Metzenbaum was opposed by Cleveland mayor George Voinovich. Voinovich accused Metzenbaum of being soft on child pornography. Voinovich's charges were criticized by many, including Glenn, Metzenbaum's old-time rival in the Democratic party and then Senate colleague who now came to Metzenbaum's aid, recording a statement for television refuting Voinovich's charges. Metzenbaum won the election by 57 to 43%, even as George H. W. Bush won Ohio's electoral votes by 11 percent.

Metzenbaum did not run for reelection in 1994. His son-in-law, Joel Hyatt, was nominated by the Democrats to replace him, but Hyatt lost to Lieutenant Governor Mike DeWine, who had been elected as Voinovich's running mate in 1990.

While in the Senate, Metzenbaum was a powerful liberal. He was known as "Senator No" (a nickname shared by Republican Jesse Helms of North Carolina) and "Headline Howard"[1] because the Senate Democrats knew that almost nothing would get through if Metzenbaum opposed it even though he never held an official party leadership post or chaired a committee. Metzenbaum took a particular interest in antitrust and consumer protection issues, often threatening to repeal antitrust law exemption given to Major League Baseball. Since his retirement, however, the issue has gone largely unaddressed. Metzenbaum became well-known for his service on the Senate Judiciary Committee, particularly because of his dedicated efforts to keep stringent antitrust laws and his pro-choice stance on abortion.

Metzenbaum devised a different method for filibustering in the Senate by offering scores of amendments to bills in place of talking one bill to death like his Southern colleagues did during the debate for Civil Rights in the 1950s and 1960s.

Metzenbaum was behind several important pieces of legislation, including the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which required warning periods for large factory closures; the Brady Law, which established a waiting period for handgun purchases;[1][4] and the Howard M. Metzenbaum Multiethnic Placement Act of 1994 (MEPA) (U.S. Public Law 103-82), which prohibits federally subsidized adoption agencies from delaying or denying child placement on grounds of race or ethnicity.

After leaving the Senate in 1995, Metzenbaum served as the chairman of the Consumer Federation of America. He died at his home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on March 12, 2008.[5] He was buried at Mayfield Cemetery in Cleveland Heights, Ohio[6]

Rebutting urban legends to the contrary, Metzenbaum asserted that he never represented the Communist Party.[7] When the National Republican Senatorial Committee suggested in 1987 that he had "Communist sympathies", Chairman Rudy Boschwitz apologized for the insulting smear.[8]

Metzenbaum's cousin, James Metzenbaum, was a prominent Ohio attorney who wrote a noted text on zoning law and once ran for a seat on the Ohio Supreme Court.

Popular culture

Metzenbaum was referenced in the Space Ghost Coast to Coast episode "Switcheroo". Space Ghost mentioned him as a guest, but his staff had forgotten to book him.

Metzenbaum had a cameo in the 1993 film Dave. He was also referenced in numerous Cleveland-area advertisements.

In 1998, the Howard M. Metzenbaum United States Courthouse in Cleveland was named in his honor.


  1. ^ a b c d e "Howard M. Metzenbaum, 1917-2008: Ohio Senator was a champion of labor and master of rules". Los Angeles Times: pp. B9. 2008-03-13.,0,7830134.story. 
  2. ^ "Upset Time: POLITICS". TIME magazine. May 18, 1970.,9171,909179,00.html. Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  3. ^ "Sun Newspapers," Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, David D. VanTassel, ed., 1997. Retrieved 13 Mar. 2008
  4. ^ Associated Press, "Former Ohio Sen. Howard Metzenbaum dies," 13 Mar. 2008. Retrieved 13 Mar. 2008
  5. ^ Former Sen. Howard Metzenbaum dies at 90
  6. ^
  7. ^ Personal correspondence, Jan. 5, 2006, from Harold S. Stern, Metzenbaum's law partner after 1953
  8. ^ "American Notes: POLITICS". TIME magazine. August 10, 1987.,9171,965168,00.html. Retrieved 2007-02-18. 
United States Senate
Preceded by
William B. Saxbe
United States Senator (Class 3) from Ohio
Served alongside: Robert Taft (Jr.)
Succeeded by
John H. Glenn, Jr.
Preceded by
Robert Taft (Jr.)
United States Senator (Class 1) from Ohio
Served alongside: John H. Glenn, Jr.
Succeeded by
R. Michael DeWine

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