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Harold Royce Gross: a true patriot and American

By Carl Langley
web posted July 6, 2009
GUEST COLUMN – With Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats off and running on the wildest spending sprees ever seen in the supposedly civilized world, it’s left to us seniors to recall the days of Harold Royce Gross, a country boy and World War I soldier from Iowa who served in the U.S. Congress for a quarter of a century.

Gross, who was forever true to his pioneer spirit and middle America heritage, did not spend his time in the U.S. House idly. He made life miserable for those colleagues who regarded the public treasury as their personal piggy bank and were quick to raid it for almost any purpose.

Not addicted to the spending orgies of members of our national governing body and bearing a personal animosity against the spendthrifts who came before and with him, Gross was, for lack of a better word, a world class cheapskate. In this case being called a cheapskate is a badge of honor, a citation worn long and well by the Honorable Harold Gross, a title he well deserved.

I renewed my familiarity with Gross by visiting the Arlington National Cemetery website. He was buried there in 1987, a dozen years after he left Congress and having gown tired of opposing every spending plan put up by Democrats, or anyone else.

He and his supporters, too few in number to turn the tide, believed the American voter has a bad habit of electing to high office people who would have been failures anywhere but in a government job.

I don’t think we need remind anyone who keeps up with national government, or local government, that the names of the ones who have left office disgraced by misfeasance and malfeasance of every stripe is too numerous to be listed.

As a result of his firm stand against spending and despite his small stature (he was only 5 foot 6 and weighed 135 pounds), Gross stands like a giant for those of us with long memories, reverence for national fiscal stability and appalled by the fiscal insanity that has seized Washington..

Gross‘ shining moment, among many in the hearts of conservatives, came in December of 1963 when he was the lone voice against funding an eternal flame to be installed at the gravesite of President John F. Kennedy, who had been assassinated only 10 days before.

Unlike the millions gripped with national hysteria over the killing of the president and blinded by the tragedy, Gross was able to hold onto his sanity and question the wisdom of footing a gas bill that would run into perpetuity, or until the gas ran out.

Gross’ heroic stand against spending brought him national scorn by Democrats and even the enmity of a lot of his fellow Republicans who didn‘t want to appear heartless in the wake of the Kenndy killing.

Gross, true to his nature, was not deterred by what amounted to a national shaming. After all, the Arlington flame was not the only piece of spending he had opposed since arriving in the House in 1950, so he regarded it as just another piece of reckless financial business..

According to Bill Kauffman’s report on the Arlington website, Gross compares to a parsimonious accountant who would pour cold water on Jimmy Stewart’s big dreams in a Frank Capra movie. Others used harsher descriptions.

Gross, who never saw a spending bill he totally agreed with, first surfaced as the congressional Scrooge in 1950 when he voted against the Marshall Plan, a foreign aid spending program aimed at keeping Greece out of the hands of the Communists.

In his quarter-century of service he also voted against the space program, virtually all foreign aid bills, congressional trip taking and every post office and bridge he could locate. About the space program, he said “if we don’t get to the moon first we at least will be the first ones there with foreign aid.”

Gross, who would be suffering from apoplexy while dealing with Obama’s spending programs, also objected to military drivers for Frank Sinatra and Peter Lawford to attend Kennedy’s inaugural ball and chided White House police for guarding Caroline Kennedy’s two ponies.

Previously he had called an overseas trip by a Truman aide a “lush travel orgy,” and in Kennedy‘s second year as president he attacked the Peace Corps as “a haven for draft dodgers.” He also called a proposed national aquarium “a glorified fish pond.”

Gross often greeted each spending bill that arrived at his desk by crying out, “What is in this turkey?” He viewed each spending bill with deep suspicion and even deeper disdain and fished through it feverishly to find what he called frauds against the public.

When Gross died in 1987 his body was taken to Arlington where his earthly remains lie beneath a simple white cross. There are no monuments and certainly there is no eternal flame above his burial space.

Kauffman’s account of Gross’ congressional career noted that his gravesite is much the same as most of the others in the national cemetery in its simplicity and similarity to most of the others, who include everyone from privates and generals to major government officials.

Kauffman said if a memorial passage should be inscribed on the marker it should consist of only the few words Gross once uttered about spending. “There is always free cheese in a mouse trap,” Gross remarked.

Truer words were never spoken.

God rest Harold Royce Gross, a true patriot, a true American and the kind of man who likely will never be seen again, even as our once mighty nation drowns in debt created by men who couldn‘t carry his shoes.

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