Fighting the Odds: The Life of Senator Frank Church. By LeRoy Ashby and Rod Gramer; published by Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 800 pages. Softcover. ISBN-13 978-0945648178 Price $24.95.
The definitive biography of Idaho Senator Frank Church.
Four-term Senator Frank Church was one of the leading figures in the sweep of Idaho, and would make any short list of the most important U.S. senators of the last century. From his role in developing wilderness areas to opposition to the Vietnam War to investigating the CIA, Church was a leader on a host of difficult issues – and he did so representing a state where his views were not always in the majority. In his career and elsewhere, he spent a lifetime fighting the odds.
This is the one serious biography of Church ever written. Originally published by Washington State University Press in 1994, it is now back in print by Ridenbaugh Press. Widely acclaimed and a winner of important awards for biography, Fighting the Odds now is finally available again.
And we are pleased to offer this new edition with a new foreword, by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, who entered Congress the year Church left it – and has pursued many of the concerns Church did in the generation before.
Wyden said in his foreword, “In Fighting the Odds, LeRoy Ashby and Rod Gramer have written, to my mind, the definitive biography of Senator Church’s political life. When Mr. Gramer contacted me about writing a foreword for the 20th anniversary of the book’s first printing, I was honored and quickly said yes.
I first came to Congress in 1980, in the election that saw Senator Church lose his seat, so our careers didn’t overlap. For folks of my generation, though, Frank Church is a household name. Some may remember him as the “baby of the Senate,” for his youth and appearance, and that was how the press initially described him following his 1956 election. Others might remember him more for his perseverance—a Democratic Senator who won reelection in conservative Idaho, well now wasn’t that something? There are also those who will remember him as a formidable debater, capable at a minute’s notice of holding forth on issues of the day. In his later career, Senator Church became synonymous with opposition to the conflict in Vietnam and for rigorous oversight of the CIA and other US intelligence agencies.”
The foreword in the first edition (and reprinted in the new one) was written by then-Vice President Al Gore, who remarked, “My first memories of Senator Frank Church are from the days when my father took me as a young child to the Senate Chamber. Senator Church was easily the nicest and kindest person I met. He claimed we should be pals because he was the youngest senator. He made me smile. I watched him and my father as they led many important debates of the post-World War II era. Since that time, Senator Church and his family have been an important part of my life and have helped shape my views of public service.
Frank Church was a visionary leader of conviction and principles. He was a strong proponent of civil rights, environmental legislation and the Panama Canal treaties of 1978. He foresaw the end of communism. But Senator Church’s greatest gift to his country was his willingness to always – always – fight for the causes in which he believed, even if his views went against public opinion.”
Kirkus Reviews called it “An exhaustive, nicely done biography of the late Idaho senator Frank Church, whose four terms (1957-81) ran from the beginning of the Cold War to the post-Vietnam era.”
And historian David McCullough said that “This fine, lively, comprehensive biography couldn’t be more welcome. Frank Church was brave, bright, articulate nearly to a fault, and a good and principled man besides. Fighting the Odds is the kind of biography so greatly needed for the powerful, influential men and women of Congress who have put their marks on our history. In choosing Senator Church, authors Ashby and Gramer have brought to life one of the most important and appealing figures of them all.”