Former Congressman Receives First Annual John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award
BOSTON, MA, May 29, 1990 -- At a ceremony held today at the John F. Kennedy Library, Caroline B. Kennedy, president of the Kennedy Library Foundation, presented the first annual John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award to former U.S. Representative Carl A. Elliott, 76, of Jasper, Alabama.
"It is inspiring to celebrate the 73rd anniversary of President Kennedy's birth with this tribute to a congressman whose own career so fittingly demonstrates the quality of political courage that President Kennedy so greatly admired. I hope the Profile in Courage Award will help more Americans to appreciate public service and inspire them to choose it as a career," said Paul G. Kirk, Jr., the newly elected chairman of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.
Kennedy presented Elliott with a $25,000 stipend and an award statue designed by Edwin Schlossberg and crafted by Tiffany & Co. in the shape of a ship's beacon. Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy also participated in the ceremony.
The award takes its name from Profiles in Courage, the Pulitzer Prize winning book authored by John F. Kennedy in the 1950's when he was a Senator from Massachusetts. It described events from U.S. history in which courageous elected officials took principled stands on difficult positions and risked the wrath of their constituents. In the book, President Kennedy described such individuals as persons "whose abiding loyalty to their nation triumphed over all personal and political considerations ... who showed the real meaning of courage and a real faith in democracy."
Sen. Kennedy said, "Carl Elliott has demonstrated the true meaning of political courage throughout his career. He met the challenges of the 50's and 60's head on, working tirelessly against injustice and promoting opportunity for all Americans. He led the successful effort to enact the historic National Defense Education Act of 1958, which helped to make college education accessible to all Americans without regard to their race or economic status. He persevered despite the fact that his stands were anathema in the reactionary political climate of Alabama at the time. Ultimately, they cost him his career. Like many of the leaders described in Profiles in Courage, Carl Elliott has suffered heavily for his ideals. We hope the Profile in Courage Award will bring him at least some small measure of the recognition and respect he deserves for serving his country so well in one of the most difficult eras of our history."
Kennedy noted that the forces of reaction in Alabama united to defeat Elliott in the statewide races for Congress in 1964. Alabama's seats were reduced from nine to eight, and the candidates ran at large instead of in their traditional congressional districts. Sacrificing his 16-year congressional career, Elliott stood up against these forces with unwavering determination.
Nearly 5,000 nominations were received this year for the Profile in Courage Award, which was created by The Kennedy Library Foundation in 1989 to honor President Kennedy and encourage elected officials to display the quality of political courage. Four other individuals were selected as finalists by the Profile in Courage Award Committee in deliberations on this year's recipient. They are:
The current Governor of Oklahoma, his consistent votes as a U.S. Senator for civil rights legislation and against popular "anti-busing" proposals in the early 1970's caused an uproar among members of his own party. He has also been branded "The Benedict Arnold of Oklahoma" for his Senate vote in support of the passage of the Panama Canal Treaty, and he has endured major opposition for his recent educational reforms as governor.
The Mayor of Mayersville, Mississippi and the first black woman mayor in the state, she has demonstrated outstanding courage and tenacity against all odds to secure basic community services for her constituents. Teaching herself how to make the system work for minorities and the poor, she has succeeded in transforming her community by dealing with long standing problems such as unpaved streets, open sewers, and non-existent water supplies. Her determination and belief in democracy and human rights have also had a profound impact in relieving hunger and malnutrition and providing needed housing for elderly and low-income citizens.
Governor of Florida from 1955-61, he courageously advocated civil rights in the South at a time of all-out hostilities to racial justice. As Governor, Collins vetoed segregationist legislation and appointed black citizens to state office. His acclaimed "Lunch Counter Speech" in I960 urged Florida citizens to recognize the equal rights of black Americans. His strong commitment to the battle against injustice eventually cost him a seat in the U.S. Senate in 1968. In response to his upset in that Senate election, he said: "I don't have to get re-elected. But I do have to live with myself."
Morris K. Udall
The son of Arizona farmers, he has been a member of the House of Representatives since 1961. In the 1960's, he was one of the first Congressmen to challenge President Lyndon B. Johnson on the Vietnam War. An advocate for the preservation of the American wilderness, he was outspoken on the issue long before it became a popular cause. Over the years, his steadfast opposition to the strip mining industry and to the proliferation of nuclear waste alienated him from powerful interests in his home state. He is renowned in Congress today for his deep convictions and progressive leadership.
The chairman of the Profile in Courage Award Committee is Richard K. Donahue, attorney and former special assistant to President Kennedy.
Members of the committee include: Jill Ker Conway, history scholar, former president of Smith College; T. Jefferson Coolidge, Jr., president of Thomas Jefferson Forum; John C. Culver, attorney, former U.S. Representative and Senator from Iowa; Charles U. Daly, executive director of the Kennedy Library; Antonio Hernandez, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund; Caroline B. Kennedy, president of the Kennedy Library Foundation; Martin Luther King III, a Georgia county commissioner, board member of The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; Paul G. Kirk, Jr., attorney, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and chairman of the Kennedy Library Foundation; Sumner M. Redstone, CEO of National Amusements and chairman of Viacom International; John Seigenthaler, chairman, publisher, and CEO of The Tennessean (Nashville), editorial director of USA Today; and Theodore C. Sorensen, author, attorney, former special counsel to President Kennedy.