Oak Park, Illinois – John Bertrand Conlan, Jr., 90, a former two-term U.S. congressman from Arizona retired and living with wife Julia in Asheville, N.C., passed away peacefully, June 18, 2021.
Conlan was born September 17, 1930 in Oak Park, Illinois, son of National Baseball Hall of Fame baseball umpire John “Jocko” Conlan and wife Ruth (née Anderson).
He attended Illinois public schools, received his Bachelor of Science from Northwestern University, and his law degree from Harvard Law School before receiving a Fulbright Scholarship to study at the University of Cologne and Hague Academy of International Law.
He was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1954, practiced law in Chicago, then served as a U.S. Army paratrooper from 1956 to 1961 with rank of captain before.joining the faculty of Arizona State University in Tempe to teach geopolitics and American foreign policy there and at the University of Maryland.
He also continued his law practice in Phoenix, served as delegate to all Arizona state Republican conventions from 1962 to 1972, and following election to the Arizona State Senate in 1965 served as chairman of its Judiciary Committee until his election to Congress.
An ardent Christian evangelist, he also had served for a decade as press and political advisor for the Reverend Billy Graham’s national ministry, and used that opportunity to organize evangelicals nationally to get involved in politics.
With firm support of then-U.S. House Republican Minority Leader Gerald Ford, Conlan succeeded in getting himself elected president of the 1973 national class of 41 incoming new GOP congressmen and traveled nationally during his 1973-77 House tenure to help recruit other Christian evangelical candidates nationally to run for Congress.
His efforts were joined with those of the late Reverend Jerry Falwell of Lynchburg, Virginia, founder of the Moral Majority; orthodox Catholic leader Paul Weyrich who helped found the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. and Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia; and conservative direct- mail magnate Richard A. Viguerie, formerly of Houston, Texas, now Virginia.
In 1975, Conlan succeeded in garnering bipartisan congressional support in both the U.S. House and Senate to cut-off federal funding for national implementation of a $12-million fifth-grade social studies course produced by the National Science Foundation called Man: A Course of Study (MACOS), a year-long study of the Canadian Arctic Netsilik eskimo tribe which Christian conservatives opposed on grounds it promoted “the religion of secular humanism,” or cultural relativism.
Following fall of the Soviet Union, Conlan traveled to Germany, the Republic of Georgia, and Ukraine to promote privatization, economic and political reforms.
In 1976-77, in concert with other conservative leaders, he also helped organize a series of U.S. national seminars throughout the country, bringing renowned Soviet freedom-fighter Alexander Solzhenitsyn to America in 1976; promoting supply-side economics ideas of fellow U.S. House member Jack F. Kemp, R- Calif., which became central to then-California Governor Ronald Reagan’s 1976 presidential campaign to unseat Democrat incumbent Jimmy Carter.
Conlan is survived by his wife Julia; former wife Irene of Phoenix and their sons Christopher and Kevin; sister Nona; and three grandsons. A celebration of life memorial service will be held in Asheville, NC, at a later date.