In 1985 Congress passed legislation and President
Reagan signed Public Law 98-258 dedicating the Veterans Administration
Medical Center in Milwaukee to the memory of U.S. Congressman Clement J. Zalocki. The rededication ceremony
took place on the Medical Center grounds on May 20, 1985, and was
attended by over 1400 people.
In his thitry-four-year career, Congressman Zablocki personally worked on a number of that directly benefited the Medical Center, including his introduction of the original bills in the 83rd and 84th Congress for the construction of the current Medical Center.
Clement was born into a hardworking immigrant Polish-American family on Milwaukee’s South Side on November 18, 1912. He received his elementary education at St. Vincent de Paul School, attended Marquette High School and graduated in 1936 from the Marquette University College of Speech with a Bachelor of Philosophy degree. He also did graduate work in education at Marquette University and studied organ at the School Sisters of St. Francis. He worked as a high school teacher, an organist and choir director. On May 26, 1937, he married his school years' sweetheart, Miss Blanche M. Janic of Milwaukee. On July 5, 1977, a few weeks after celebrating their fortieth wedding anniversary, Blanche went to her eternal rest. The Zablockis had two children, Joseph Paul and Jan Francis.
The late Congressman’s political career began with his 1942 election as a State Senator from the Third District of Wisconsin. He was re-elected in 1946. In November 1948 he was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives from the Fourth District of Wisconsin (81st Congress) and was re-elected to each succeeding Congress during his lifetime.
Congressman Zablocki served in the House of Representatives for thirty-five consecutive years, from January 1948 to December 1983. He was elected by the people of the 4th District every two years, eighteen times, serving more years than any other Wisconsin Senator or Congressman had ever served in Congress.
Zablocki, legislator, author and statesman, was actively involved in the foreign affairs of our country for nearly thirty-four years. He started at the bottom and made Foreign Affairs his life’s work. Appointed to the Committee on Foreign Affairs on January 18, 1949, he was elected as Chairman of the Committee on January 19, 1977, one of the highest ranking posts in Congress. He was Chairman of the Subcommittee on International Security and Scientific Affairs and former Chairman of the Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs and the Subcommittee on Europe.
Congressman Zablocki consistently supported and voted for the extension and improvement of Social Security and improvements of veterans’ compensation and other benefits. He fought hard for the construction of modern Veterans Administration Medical Center in Milwaukee and the conversion of the previous hospital to a domiciliary facility. He supported a strong national defense, the mutual security program, the Hoover Commission recommendation for streamlining government, tax reforms, reciprocal trade agreements, fair labor laws, housing, environment, health and education legislation and measures designed to combat subversive organizations at home and abroad.
Zablocki frequently returned to Milwaukee to talk with his constituents. He stated that this was the best continuing education a Congressman could possibly get. He was a leader, but his was the leadership of reason and persuasion. Perhaps his greatest legislative achievement was his stewardship over the passage by Congress of the War Powers Act, even securing the two-thirds vote necessary to override a presidential veto. This historic piece of legislation requires any President to obtain the consent of Congress before engaging American troops abroad.
When Zablocki came to Washington, Harry S. Truman was President of the United States. In the years which followed, he was loyal to all the Presidents he came to know, whether they be Democratic as he was, or Republican. He counted Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan as his friends, and they considered him theirs.
Zablocki was instrumental in securing Congressional approval for construction in Cracow, Poland of the $12.4 million dollar American’s Children’s Hospital which stands as a symbol of the friendship between the American and Polish people. In April of 1984, Congress designated $10 million to construct an outpatient facility at the Children’s Hospital as a memorial to Clement J. Zablocki. Pope John Paul II represented the Roman Catholic Parish in that city. When the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Pope John Paul II met in Rome, they met as friends, not strangers.
An accomplished organist, he played an organ in his home, and from time to time at the churches in Milwaukee. After his death, the City of Milwaukee named a school and library after him and Milwaukee County named a park in his honor.
Memorial Services, held in the House of
Representatives and Senate of the United States, together with tributes
presented in eulogy of Clement J. Zablocki, late a representative from
Wisconsin (Washington, D.C.; U. S. Government Printing Office, 1984),
Clement J. Zablocki papers, Marquette University Archives
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