13th District of New York
Known in his Harlem, New York, district as the “Lion of Lenox Avenue,” Representative Charles B. Rangel rose to become the first African-American chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. With a House career that spanned 46 years, Rangel—whose safe Democratic district provided him with seniority and stature on Capitol Hill—was one of the longest-serving Members of Congress in American history. And he is one of only two African-American Representatives to chair three separate committees. Rangel helped found the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971, and was a staunch defender of inner city economic development and international trade. His assignment to the Ways and Means Committee gave him considerable influence over America’s tax policy, and he shaped major bills that ranged from anti-drug policies to health care reform. Upon his retirement, Rangel reflected on his long career, noting, “Thank God I never had to decide between doing the right thing or being defeated at the polls.”
Charles B. (Charlie) Rangel was born on June 11, 1930, in Harlem, New York City, to Blanche Wharton and Ralph Rangel. The second of three children, he was raised by his mother and his maternal grandfather, Charles Wharton. From 1948 to 1952, Rangel served in the U.S. Army and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart for his service in the Korean War when he led 40 U.S. soldiers from behind enemy lines despite being wounded himself. After returning to New York and graduating from DeWitt Clinton High School, Rangel earned a bachelor of science degree from New York University under the GI bill in 1957. Three years later, he completed a JD at St. John's University Law School. In 1960 Rangel passed the New York bar and began practicing law. In 1963, U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy appointed him Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. He later served as an aide to the speaker of the New York assembly and was counsel for the President’s Commission to Revise the Draft Laws. On July 26, 1964, Rangel married the former Alma Carter. They raised two children, Steven and Alicia.
Rangel retired following the 114th Congress (2015–2017). Voting in the Democratic primary in June 2016, he told reporters, “This is the first time in 46 years I couldn’t find my name.