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John B. Anderson didn’t tell people what they wanted to hear — he told them what he really believed.

His politics shifted from right to left over the years, but his honesty and integrity never wavered. Rockford, Ill., lawyer Tom Wartowski, who was Anderson’s personal aide and traveling companion during Anderson’s first nine months as a presidential candidate in 1980, said Anderson “was one of the last remaining statesmen.”

We could use statesmen like Anderson in today’s hyperpartisan world.

Anderson, who was born in Rockford, represented Illinois’ 16th District in the U.S. House for 10 terms, and ran as an independent for president in 1980, died Sunday. He was 95.

“Trying to produce the miracle of the century in his run for the presidency, Anderson has come from way back in the pack to a position of viability using only one major weapon — candor,” a March 13, 1980, Rockford Register Star editorial said.

We all would appreciate candor from our elected officials at every level, but more often than not we’re disappointed by extreme partisanship and obfuscation.

“It really is a dirty trick Anderson has been playing on his opponents — choosing to be thoughtful and straightforward and candid instead of making promises which everybody knows cannot be kept,” the editorial said.

The Fair Housing Bill of 1968 was an indication of Anderson’s political shift. Anderson cast the deciding vote to pass it out of the House Rules Committee.

“We are not simply knuckling under to pressure or listening to the voices of unreasoning fear and hysteria if we seek to do that which we believe in our hearts is right and just,” he said on the House floor. “I legislate today not out of fear, but out of a deep concern for the America I love. We do stand at a crossroad. We can continue the ... slide into an endless cycle of riot and disorder or we can begin the slow and painful ascent toward that yet-distant goal of equality of opportunity for all Americans, regardless of race or color.”

He continued to do what he believed in his heart was “right and just” even when it upset his constituents and colleagues.

However, it was more than honesty, integrity and candor that earned Anderson the Rockford Register Star’s endorsement for president. It was his detailed economic plan.

“Many of the major problems facing this nation today — everything from explosive inflation to dangerous deterioration of our defense capacity — tie directly to the economic chaos of the last four years,” the Register Star editorialized on Oct. 26, 1980. “This dangerous instability, with its wild swings of the economic pendulum, is threatening the very roots of our democracy, our free enterprise system and our relationships with each other. It simply cannot be allowed to continue.

“There are other important issues in this year’s presidential election, but the economic question is of overriding concern.

“Among the three presidential candidates — incumbent Democrat Jimmy Carter, Republican challenger Ronald Reagan and John B. Anderson, the independent candidate from Rockford — we believe a Reagan presidency would be vastly superior to another term by Carter, but we believe Anderson’s highly detailed program offers the best hope for returning stability to the U.S. economy. ...

“The Anderson platform is based on 20 years of congressional experience and the knowledge he has gained during those years of what will work, both economically and politically.”

At one point polls showed Anderson with 26 percent support during the 1980 campaign. He wound up with 6.6 percent of the vote.

“He believed his job was worth giving up to set a better example of realism in politics,” U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who represents the 16th District, said in a statement. “We are better for his candor, his focus, and his honesty — and his pragmatic approach and self-awareness continues to inspire me on a daily basis.”

Well said. Rest in peace, John B. Anderson.

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