Representative Rodino with Senator Al D'Amato

John Sirica
Italian Americans Become National Symbols of Probity - John Sirica and Peter Rodino.

During the 1970s two Italian Americans, John Sirica and Peter Rodino, emerged as major principals in one of the most significant chapters in America's history involving actions to impeach the president of the United States. Both John Joseph Sirica (1904-1992), born in Waterbury, Connecticut and Peter Wallace Rodino (1909- ), who was born in Newark, New Jersey, were veterans of many years of public service -Sirica as a judge and Rodino as a member of Congress.

Sirica, the son of an immigrant barber from Naples, who was raised in poverty in several eastern cities, supported himself by boxing while earning a law degree from Georgetown University in 1926. He worked as a lawyer for a private firm for a few years before becoming counsel for a congressional committee. Sirica's activity in Republican Party affairs was the background to his appointment first as an assistant United States Attorney, and then to the federal district court by President Eisenhower in 1957. Known as a fair judge by the time Richard Nixon became president, his elevation to chief of the fifteen-judge federal court in the District of Columbia, placed him in a position to preside over the Watergate case, one of this country's most egregious scandals. In the course of a two-year trial commencing in 1973, it was Sirica's close questioning of witnesses that led to implications of involvement by President Nixon. Sirica demonstrated his mettle when he made the significant ruling that the Nixon Administration was obliged to deliver evidence to the grand jury, including tape recordings -a decision upheld by the United States Court of Appeal. He then ordered the grand jury findings that illegal activities had been perpetrated by the Nixon re-election committee during the presidential election of 1972 be delivered to the House of Representatives Committee investigating impeachment charges. Time magazine named him "Man of the Year" for the excellent manner in which he presided over the historic Watergate trial.

Rodino, a second generation Italian American embraced an immigrant's reverence for America as a land of opportunity, earned his law degree from New Jersey Law School in 1937, worked as a lawyer, entered the Army during World War II, and then developed a brisk law practice. He also became interested in Democratic Party politics and won a seat to the House of Representatives in 1948, representing a Newark congressional district that was home to a large enclave of Italian Americans. Repeatedly elected to the seat, by the 1970s he possessed the seniority to become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, however, he was not nationally known until the committee began impeachment of President Nixon deliberations. Presented with one of the gravest crises in recent history, Rodino rose to the occasion with unexpected skills and unusual fairness, resisting a rush to judgment in his endeavor to forge a bipartisan majority for an impeachment resolution. Nixon's resignation found Rodino enjoying prestige and influence until his retirement in 1988. Although each of the two traversed somewhat different roads, they became symbols of probity and integrity to the country as a whole and especially to Italian Americans.

1973 Time Magazine Man Of The Year: Judge John J. Sirica
John Sirica
Peter Rodino

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