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Towns, Edolphus (1934- )

Image Courtesy of the Office of
Representative Edolphus Towns
Former Congrssman Edolphus Towns was a long-time Democratic Representative from the State of New York.  Towns was born in Chadbourn, North Carolina on July 21, 1934, and attended the public schools of Chadbourn before graduating with a B.S. degree from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University in 1956. After graduating he served for two years in the U.S. Army and then taught in several New York City public schools, Fordham University, and Medgar Evars College. He received his master’s degree in social work from Adelphi University in 1973.

Between 1965 and 1975 Towns worked as program director of the Metropolitan Hospital and as assistant administrator at Beth Israel Hospital. He was also employed by several Brooklyn area healthcare and youth and senior citizen organizations.

In 1972 Towns was elected Democratic state committeeman in Brooklyn.  Four year later, in 1976, he became the first African American Deputy Borough president of Brooklyn, a position he held until 1982. That same year Representative Frederick W. Richmond resigned from the House.  Towns won the vacated seat in the November election and served in Congress from 1983 to 2013.  He represented first the 11th Congressional District from 1983 to 1993, where he was replaced by Congressman Major Owens.  From 1993 to 2013 he represented the 10th Congressional District, winning the seat previously held by New York Senator Chuck Schumer. Towns also served as the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus from 1991 to 1993   

While in Congresss Towns served as treasurer and vice chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, and was a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Government Reform Committee. Through these committees he is active on the Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection Subcommittee, the Health Subcommittee, the Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee, and is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Management, Organization, and Procurement.

Some of Towns’s major legislative achievements include the “Student Right to Know Act,” new bilingual education programs, health related changes like greater Medicare reimbursement for mid-level practitioners, federal funding for poison control centers, and new standards for clinical trials on children. He also created the Telecommunications Development Fund to assist small and minority telecommunications businesses. Towns is also dedicated to protecting America’s national parks and has been recognized for his work by the National Audubon Society. once named Towns the 2nd most influential Representative in the New York delegation for the 110th Congress. His son Darryl Towns is a New York state assemblyman, making them the first father and son to serve concurrently in public office in New York. On April 16, 2012, Towns announced his retirement.  He was succeeded by Jerrold Nadler.  He lives in Brooklyn with his wife Gwendolyn. They have two children and five grandchildren, and are surrogate parents to two of their nephews.

Bruce A. Ragsdale and Joel D. Treese, Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1989 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990); Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774 to Present,


University of Washington, Seattle

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