Two long-time Iowa congressmen may soon have federal property in Iowa bearing their names. The U.S. House has approved naming the Federal Building in Des Moines for long-time Congressman Neal Smith, a Democrat who served in congress for 36 years. Current Congressman Leonard Boswell, a Democrat from Des Moines, spearheaded the effort.
"It’s quite a privilege today for me to stand here and speak about someone who’s been my mentor and (who) I have admired for many, many years of my life," Boswell said during remarks on the floor of the U.S. House. The bill must clear the U.S. Senate, too, before Smith’s name is posted on the building.
Smith was awarded the Purple Heart for his heroics as a bomber pilot for the Air Force during World War II. Smith got his law degree from Drake and was first elected to Congress in 1958. "He was known for his skillful legislating," Boswell said. No other Iowa congressman has served longer in the U.S. House than Smith.
"Neal spent most of his time outside the spotlight," Boswell said. "He was rooted in Depression-era Iowa. Neal was a man of liberal instincts, but he was considered fair." Smith, by the way, will celebrate his 87th birthday next week. The two new congressman from eastern Iowa — Democrats Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack — are pushing to name the Federal Building in Davenport in honor of former Iowa Congressman Jim Leach, a Republican who was defeated by Loebsack this past November.
Leach served 30 years in the U.S. House and Loebsack — his November opponent — calls Leach a "native son to Iowa" who should be "revered" for being a "model statesman." Leach is now teaching at Princeton, his alma mater. The bill naming the Federal Building in Davenport for Leach sits in a House committee, and a similar bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate by both of Iowa’s senators — Republican Charles Grassley and Democrat Tom Harkin.