Arthur J. Altmeyer


October 18, 1972

H 10353-H10354



(Mr. KASTENMEIER asked and was given permission to extend his remarks at this point in the Record and to include extraneous matter.)

Mr. KASTENMEIER. Mr. Speaker, I have the sad duty today to call to the attention of my colleagues the death of one of this Nation's most influential and progressive social reformers. Arthur J. Altmeyer, often called the "Father" of social security, died at age 81 in Madison, Wis., on Monday, October 16, 1972.

Mr. Altmeyer was a very close and highly valued personal friend of mine, a constituent of Wisconsin's Second Congressional District, and a man with nationally and internationally recognized ideals. For millions of our Nation's retired people, his efforts have meant the difference between abject poverty and a living level of support. For this alone, every American, both young and old, owes Mr. Altmeyer an everlasting debt of gratitude.

He was a native of Wisconsin, and came to Washington at the call of President Roosevelt in 1933 to serve as Chief of the Compliance Division of the National Recovery Administration. A year later, he was made an Assistant Secretary of Labor. At the same time, Mr. Altmeyer became Chairman of the Technical Board of the President's Committee on Economic Security, the same Committee which drafted legislation setting up the social security system. Later, he became a member and then Chairman of the Social Security Board, set up to administer the income security program that was eventually to cover most of the population of this country. From his position of Chairman of the Social Security Board, he moved in 1946 to Commissioner of Social Security. Years later, when the social security system was celebrating its 33rd birthday, he received the highest award offered by the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. A new award was also established in his name.

It is customary for the news media to laud a public figure at the time of his death. But Mr. Altmeyer had the distinction of receiving profuse laudatory comment on the event of his retirement from Government service. He was publicly recognized for his extraordinary selflessness to the public service, and for his remarkable gifts of patience and wisdom and understanding of human problems. These were not hollow accolades, but well deserved praise.

Long before most public figures took up the cause of eliminating poverty from our national life, Mr. Altmeyer was assaulting the problem with concrete proposals embodied now in the social security system. Long before medicare came into being, Mr. Altmeyer was calling for a national health insurance plan. He was a man of wisdom and gifted foresight, who realized long before most people that the wars against poverty, illness, and old age were far more important and beneficial to humankind than military wars abroad. He is one of the few who lived to see his ideals and his dreams transformed into reality on a national basis. For this, we must all be thankful, and for this, we must all be saddened at his passing.