Congressman Richard Vander Veen was first elected to the U. S. House of Representatives in a special election on February 8, 1974, to replace Gerald R. Ford who had been appointed to serve as Vice President in the Nixon Administration in 1973. He represented the Fifth Federal Congressional District in western Michigan, currently the second Federal Congressional District. In November 1974 he was elected to a full term to serve in the Ninety fourth U. S. Congress. He served for only one full term and lost his bid for re-election in November 1976. Vander Veen attempted to be nominated on the Democratic ticket for the U. S. Senate Seat in 1978, but he lost to Senator Carl Levin in the primary election.
Vander Veen was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan on November 26, 1922. He graduated from Muskegon High School, Muskegon, Michigan, in 1940. He enlisted in the U. S. Navy in January 1941, and served in the South Pacific and was exposed to active duty, until 1946. While in the military service he apparently was able to take college level courses, because he was able to graduate from the University of South Carolina in 1946 with a B. S. Degree. During the Korean War, from 1950 to 1952, he again entered the service, as a lieutenant, and served in the Korean Conflict. During his military service career, he was awarded the Most Outstanding Naval Graduate Award by Admiral Nimitz.
Vander Veen was accepted in Harvard Law School and graduated with his LL. B. Degree in 1949. He was admitted to the Michigan Bar in 1949, and commenced his law practice in Grand Rapids in that same year. He eventually became president of the law practice named, Vander Veen, Freihofer and Cook, P. C.
He became interested in politics as a Democrat. In 1959 he was elected to be the chairman of the Michigan Fifth District Democratic Party. From 1958 to 1963 he served on the Michigan State Mental Health Commission. In 1960 he was elected to be the Chairman of the Michigan State Democratic Convention. In 1962 and again in 1964 he was a Delegate to the Michigan State Democratic Conventions. From 1964 to 1969 he served on the Michigan State Highway Commission. Locally he was elected to the East Grand Rapids Board of Education and served from 1969 to 1974.
More recent activities included serving as a member of the Michigan Waterways Commission from 1984 until his death. During his active life he was also president of the Resource Energy Company, a company which utilized wind energy to generate electricity. He was a champion for better public libraries, and actively supported libraries in the community. Upon his death donations in his memory were solicited for the Grand Rapids Public Library’s Ryerson Library Foundation, a foundation he had chaired during his life.
Richard Vander Veen was married to his wife Marion [Coward], for almost 60 years. The couple had three sons, Richard of Lowell, Michigan, and Larry and Paul of Washington, D. C. There were also five grandchildren, and one great grand daughter. His funeral service was held on Sunday, March 5, 2006 in Westminster Presbyterian Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Vander Veen, Richard Franklin [1922-2006], bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=V000029
Letter from Vernon Ehlers, Member of Congress, March 3, 2006, entitled, “Former Congressman Richard F. Vander Veen of East Grand Rapids, Michigan, Dies at 83”,www.house.gov/apps/list/press/mi03_ehlers/030306/VanderVeenDies.html (link longer active)
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