In Memory

John Harbin Rousselot - Class Of 1945

John Harbin Rousselot

John Rousselot, the conservative Republican and John Birch Society official who represented the San Marino area in Congress for 14 years, died Saturday at Irvine Medical Center. He was 75 and had been in failing health since suffering a heart attack in July, said Robin Edwards, his daughter.

Rousselot's association with the then-San Marino-based John Birch Society, which eventually alienated even most conservatives by accusing hallowed figures like Dwight Eisenhower and Winston Churchill of being in league with Communists, contributed to his re-election defeat in 1962 after one term in Congress. From 1963 to 1967, Rousselot worked as a paid spokesperson for the John Birch Society. He resigned from the organization in 1979 when he launched a short-lived campaign for the U.S. Senate. He represented much of the West San Gabriel Valley as a congressman from 1970 until 1982, when redistricting destroyed the conservative majority that had consistently re-elected him.

Despite his far-right politics, Rousselot was well-liked by colleagues on both side of the aisle in an era in which partisan politics still maintained a veneer of civility, said Pete McCloskey, a congressional colleague and close friend from their days at South Pasadena/San Marino High School in the early 1940s.

McCloskey, a Republican whose relatively liberal beliefs meant his political stances were frequently at odds with those of his classmate, credits Rousselot with putting aside their differences and single-handedly saving his career during the 1974 elections.

When Gerald Ford threatened to pull out of an important appearance on McCloskey's behalf unless he shared the podium with a conservative Republican, Rousselot, who had just flown to Washington from the West Coast, immediately got on another plane and headed back to San Jose.

"He got off the plane at Dulles, got on another plane an hour later and flew back,' McCloskey recalled. "Nobody in the world would do that. But he did it for an old friend with whom he disagreed politically.'

The John Birch Society found a fitting home on Mission Street in notoriously conservative San Marino and a fitting spokesman in Rousselot.

"Most people in San Marino really thought pretty much the same way Rousselot did,' said Paul Crowley, a high school classmate who is president of the San Marino Historical Society and a former city councilman. "He was a little more to the right of everybody. But if he had been a wild-eyed liberal, he wouldn't have been that popular.'

Rousselot grew up in San Marino, graduating from high school in 1945 with a class that included McCloskey and future Pasadena Star-News editor and columnist Charles Cherniss.

Rousselot loved sports, but a childhood bout with polio had left him disabled, and he had to content himself with being a team manager rather than an active participant, classmates recalled. "He was a sports nut, but he couldn't play,' Crowley said. "He carried equipment bags around for guys, but he had trouble even doing that.'

Rousselot graduated from Principia College in Illinois and worked in the insurance business before he was elected to his first term in Congress in 1960 at the age of 33.

He is survived by his first wife, Marilyn Spencer; second wife, Vyonne Rousselot; a son, Craig Rousselot of Irvine; two daughters, Robin Edwards of Lake Forest and Wendy Sirugo of San Dimas; and five grandchildren.

The Whittier Daily News, May 12, 2003

  Post Comment

05/28/11 11:23 AM #1    

Pat Shea (1947)

I went to Junior High and High School with John , I liked John very
Much , he was smart & a lot of ,fun .

  Post Comment