Adolph Sabath, Class of 1892

Second-longest serving Dean of the U.S. House of Representatives

Adolph SabathAdolph Sabath was born in what is now the Czech Republic in 1866. He left his home country in 1881 with only enough money to travel to Chicago to stay with a cousin. He worked odd jobs and eventually went into real estate, all the while saving enough money to continue his education and to bring the rest of his family to the United States. In 1891, he graduated from the Lake Forest University Law Department, a predecessor to Chicago-Kent College of Law.
Just four years later, Sabath began his political career when he was appointed a justice of the peace by the governor of Illinois. In 1897, he became a police magistrate and in 1907 he was elected to represent the Fifth Illinois District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He went on to serve in the House for twenty-three consecutive terms, one of the longest continuous terms of service by any congressman. Sabath also served on the executive committee of the Democratic Party from 1909 to 1920 and was a delegate to all of the Democratic National Conventions from 1894 to 1944.

Sabath represented a reform-minded immigrant constituency and fought for passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act and recognition of small nations after World War I. He introduced the first workmen’s compensation bill, the first old-age pension resolution and the first Reconstruction Finance Corporation Bill. Sabath advocated federal aid for better highways and urged enactment of the Social Security Act. He also served as chairman of the Alcohol Liquor Traffic Committee and as a member, and later chairman, of the House Rules Committee. Later in his tenure, he pushed for the United States to join the League of Nations and was one of the first to support military action against Nazi Germany. He used his seniority and influence to help pass New Deal and Fair Deal Legislation.

Sabath became Dean (longest-serving member) of the House in 1934 and served as Dean for 18 years, 7 months and 5 days – a record until he was overtaken by John Dingell (D-Mich) last August. He died in 1952, just two days after his reelection to Congress for what would have been a twenty-fourth term.