James Van Zandt had a long and illustrious career in public service for his native country. As a public servant, he served many years as an elected congressional representative for the people of the State of Pennsylvania, but in addition, he also was on active duty in the military, in both the First and Second World Wars. Between the two wars he also was active in the Veterans of Foreign Wars [VFW] and served as its national commander from 1934 to 1936.
James Van Zandt was born in Altoona, Blair County, Pennsylvania on December 18, 1898. He attended the public schools of Altoona, and following his basic schooling attended the Pennsylvania Railroad Apprentice School in Altoona, Pennsylvania. His schooling was probably interrupted in April 1917, when he enlisted as an apprentice seaman in the United States Navy, and served for two years overseas.
Following his military service in the First World War, Van Zandt went back to work for the Pennsylvania Railroad, serving in various departments until 1938, when he became a district passenger agent. During that same year, 1938, Van Zandt actively entered politics by running for the local U. S. Congressional Seat. He was successful in his quest and on January 3, 1939, Van Zandt became a member of the U. S. Seventy Sixth Congress as a representative for the State of Pennsylvania. He was re-elected to the Seventy Seventh and the Seventy Eighth Congresses, and served until September 23, 1943 when he resigned to enter military service as a lieutenant commander in the U. S. Navy.
Van Zandt entered the naval service and was assigned to the Pacific area. He had been in the military reserve, during the years following his World War I military service. Also during his term in Congress, Van Zandt was called up as a reservist to active duty in September 1941, and served on active duty until January 1942, with the Pacific Fleet and in escort convoy duty in the North Atlantic. Thirteen years after his discharge from active duty, in January 1946, Van Zandt was promoted to rear admiral in the United States Naval Reserve on January 1, 1959.
During his time in the military during the Second World War, Van Zandt retained his congressional seat, and following the war, he was able to get re-elected through the end of the Eighty Seventh Congress, until January 1, 1963. Since he had entered the U. S. Congress in January 1939, he had served through twelve congresses for a period of 24 years. In the 1962 election year, he had an opportunity to run for one of the U. S. Senatorial seats representing the Republican Party in Pennsylvania. He was not successful in his quest for the senatorial seat. The governor of Pennsylvania then appointed him to be a special representative of the governor, a position he held until his retirement in 1971.
Little is known about Van Zandt’s Dutch ancestry or his family, except that he was married to Esther L. Meisenhoelder [1907-1992]. During his retirement years, the Van Zandt’s lived in Arlington, Virginia. Van Zandt passed away on January 6, 1986 at the advanced age of 87 years. He was interred in Arlington National Cemetery. His wife, following her death, was buried with him in Arlington National Cemetery.
Van Zandt, James Edward [1898-1986], http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=V000069
Van Zandt, James Edward, http://arlingtoncemetery.net/jevanza.htm
James Edward Van Zandt, Rear Admiral, United States Navy, Member of Congress,http://politicalgraveyard.com/bio/vanwagenen-vaudain.html
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