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Collection John M. Ashbrook political collection
Title John M. Ashbrook political collection
Caption John M. Ashbrook
Catalog Number Main record
Exhibit# 0
Imagefile 001\Main record.JPG
Object Name John M. Ashbrook collection
Scope & Content John Milan Ashbrook (21 Sep. 1928-24 Apr. 1982), congressman, was born in Johnstown, Ohio, the son of Congressman William A. Ashbrook and Marie (Swank) Ashbrook.

He joined the U.S. Navy in 1946 after graduating from high school, and served until 1948. He was a member of Admiral Richard E. Byrd's final Antarctic expedition. He received an M.S. with Honors from Harvard University in 1952, and a J.D. from Ohio State University Law School in 1955.

He became publisher of the Johnstown Independent in1953, a weekly newspaper founded by his father in 1884. Even after he had been in Congress for many years, he still considered himself first and foremost a publisher. When asked about his often precarious political existence, he claimed not to worry because he said he" would rather be a printer" anyway.

In 1956 he was elected to the Ohio General Assembly, serving two terms. In 1960 he was elected to Congress from the 17th District. During that campaign he warned his constitutents against "unbridled national power with a resultant loss of individual freedom and local autonomy." He won and served without interruption for 22 years. He served on the House Internal Security Committee, and on the Education and Labor committee. He became one of the most articulate anti-Communists in Congress, as well as a great opponent of federal aid to education and other New Deal and Great Society programs. Throughout his political life he was known as an intelligent, candid, and persuasive champion of the conservative cause. By the end of Richard Nixon's first term he had establishd himself as a national political leader with impeccable conservative credentials, and he contributed energetically to the national conservative movement. He had been Chairman of the Young Republican National Federation (1957-59), one of the founders of the American Conservative Union, serving as Chairman (1966-71), and on the steering committee of the Committee of One Million Againist the Admission of Red China.

Although he had been one of the founders of the draft Goldwater movement in 1963, he supported Nixon in 1968 and tried to persuade conservative not to bolt to George Wallace, thinking that there was a unique opportunity to build a conservative coalition. By December 1971 he made his displeasure with the Nixon administration public. He criticized "the presentation of liberal policies in the verbal trappings of conservatism." He opposed budget deficits, wage and price controls, rapprochment with China, and other Nixon policies he deemed liberal. He claimed that the New Deal policies "have not been changed but extended and refined" under the Nixon presidency.

He announced at the end of 1971 that he would oppose Richard Nixon in a number of Republican primaries. He thought that Nixon had an opportrunity to build a conservative coalition to govern the country: "The result of such leadership could well have been a period of conservative and Republican ascendancy to match the Democratic era that followed upon the victory of Franklin Roosevelt. Instead, the net result of this administration may be to frustrate for years to come the emergence of the conservative majority."

Many have argured the Ashbrook's conservative challenge to an incumbent Republican paved the way for Ronald Reagan's challenge in 1976. Although that challenge fell short, it cleared the way for Reagan's election in 1980 and possibly the conservative majority that Ashbrook had helped create.

In 1982 he announced that he would seek the Republican nomination to oppose Ohio Senator Howard Metzenbaum. Most politcal observers thought that he would almost certainly recive the GOP nomination. On April 24th, while campaigning, he collapsed and died within a few hours of massive internal hemorrhaging. He was 53 years old.