Lester L. Wolff

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Lester L. Wolff
Lester L. Wolff.jpg
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from New York
In office
January 3, 1965 – January 3, 1981
Preceded bySteven B. Derounian
Succeeded byJohn LeBoutillier
Constituency3rd district (1965–1973)
6th district (1973–1981)
Personal details
Lester Lionel Wolff

(1919-01-04) January 4, 1919 (age 102)
New York City, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Blanche Silvers
(m. 1940; died 1997)
ResidenceMuttontown, New York, U.S.
EducationNew York University Stern School of Business
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Air Force
RankUS Air Force O6 shoulderboard rotated.svg Colonel
UnitCivil Air Patrol
Battles/warsWorld War II

Lester Lionel Wolff (born January 4, 1919) is a retired American politician and former Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives from New York. He served as president of the International Trade and Development Agency. In 2014, Wolff accepted the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award in the United States, on behalf of the World War II members of the Civil Air Patrol.[1] Wolff is currently the oldest living former member of the House of Representatives.

An expert in Asian affairs, Wolff was also the chair of the Touro College Pacific Community Institute, the author of numerous books on foreign policy, and the host of the weekly PBS show Ask Congress.

Early life and education[edit]

Wolff was born in New York City to a family that had settled in the United States during the 18th century. He became bar mitzvah at a Reform synagogue in Manhattan. Wolff attended New York Public Schools, and graduated with a degree in marketing from New York University.

Early career[edit]

He lectured at New York University from 1939 until 1941, and later became a department chair at the City College of New York. Wolff was part of the Civil Air Patrol during World War II. He was a squadron commander and a subchaser.

Wolff worked for the Long Island Press and The Bronx Home News. Wolff then founded his own firm, specializing in the food industry, and was executive director of the New York Conference of Retail Grocers. He became the producer and host of Between the Lines, a local television program, and the producer of a celebrity variety show starring Wendy Barrie.

Wolff remained active in philanthropy, heading a division of the United Jewish Appeal.

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

In 1957, Wolff was selected by the House of Representatives as chairman of the Advisory Committee of the Subcommittee on Consumers Study.

He was elected to Congress in 1964 and served from January 3, 1965 until January 3, 1981. Through redistricting he initially represented the 3rd District and later the 6th District. Wolff served as Chairman of the Asian and Pacific Affairs Committee, and the Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control. He commanded the Congressional Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol, raising to the rank of Colonel.

During Wolff's 1978 congressional delegation to China, he met with Deng Xiaoping. The Deng-Wolff Conversation conducted during this time was credited for its particular importance in the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between the People’s Republic of China and the United States. Wolff is the author of the Taiwan Relations Act, signed into law on April 10, 1979. TRA was born of the need of the United States to find a way to protect its significant security and commercial interests in the Republic of China in the wake of President Jimmy Carter’s termination of diplomatic relations and a mutual defense treaty of 25 years.

Wolff introduced amendments to the White House-sponsored Foreign Assistance Act of 1969 to restore the initiative for direct peace talks between Israel and the Arab states. He also played a role in the Camp David Accords.

Post-congressional career[edit]

Wolff receiving the Congressional Gold Medal in 2014

He was the president of the International Trade and Development Agency. Wolff was the director of the Pacific Community Institute at Touro College, and has published numerous books on foreign policy. He hosted a weekly PBS show, Ask Congress, continuously since the mid-1980s. Due to his expertise in Asian culture and relations, Wolff was a well sought-after consultant. He was a director of the Griffon Corporation from 1987 to 2007. Wolff received the World Peace Prize Top Honor in 2010. In 2014, Wolff accepted the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award in the United States, on behalf of volunteers of the Civil Air Patrol who had served during World War II.[2][3]

With the death of James D. Martin on October 30, 2017, Wolff became the oldest living former member of Congress. Wolff turned 100 in January 2019.

In February 2019, Wolff donated his congressional papers to Adelphi University in Garden City, New York.

Personal life[edit]

Wolff married Blanche Silvers in 1940; she died in 1997.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ CAP's Lester Wolff Celebrates 100th Birthday
  2. ^ World Peace Prize Top Honer Prize-Hon. Lester Wolff WPPAC.
  3. ^ CAP's Lester Wolff Celebrates 100th Birthday
  4. ^ Barkan, Ross (May 30, 2017). "Long Island's 98-Year-Old Former Congressman Eats Dumplings, Hates Trump, Makes Tweets". Village Voice. Retrieved June 20, 2017.


  • Kurt F. Stone (December 29, 2010). The Jews of Capitol Hill: A Compendium of Jewish Congressional Members. Scarecrow Press. pp. 230–233. ISBN 978-0-8108-7738-2.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Steven Derounian
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 3rd congressional district

Succeeded by
Angelo D. Roncallo
Preceded by
Seymour Halpern
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 6th congressional district

Succeeded by
John LeBoutillier
Honorary titles
Preceded by
James D. Martin
Oldest Living United States Representative
(Sitting or Former)

October 30, 2017 – present
Succeeded by