The Journal of Historical Review

John Schmitz, RIP

Mark Weber

A good friend of the Institute for Historical Review, John Schmitz, has died. The former US Congressman, Marine Corps officer and political science teacher is remembered with respect by both friend and foe alike as an articulate, witty and fervent champion of his conservative principles.

He died of cancer on January 10, 2001, at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, surrounded by his family. He was 70. His body was laid to rest with military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

Schmitz attended at least two IHR Conferences, and was a subscriber for many years to the IHR’s Journal of Historical Review. From time to time bought extra copies to give away to friends.

He provided crucial help to the Institute during the difficult Ninth IHR Conference in February 1989. A day before the meeting was set to begin, the southern California hotel where it was to be held cancelled the contract, caving in to threats and intimidation by the Jewish Defense League (JDL). Another hotel was quickly found, but it too succumbed to JDL intimidation. Following the two cancellations, and with no alternative hotel willing to stand up to JDL threats, the speakers and attendees who were arriving from across the country and abroad had no place to meet. It seemed that the Conference might be cancelled just as it was to begin. In this emergency, Schmitz contacted Joe Bischof, a friend who owned the Old World shopping center in nearby Huntington Beach. Bischof graciously offered his facilities, and the Ninth IHR Conference – one of the most spirited ever – was held in a packed basement meeting room, in spite of continued harassment by JDL thugs.

Also in 1989, when the IHR suddenly needed a lawyer to replace one who had abruptly quit, it was Schmitz who recommended his friend, Bill Hulsy, who ever since has served as the IHR’s main corporate attorney. (Bill Hulsy and his wife, Karen, had been long-time friends of the Schmitz’s, who were god-parents of the Hulsys’ daughter.)

John George Schmitz was born in August 1930 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the US Marine Corps in 1952. After earning his pilot wings in 1954, he was assigned to a base in North Carolina, flying F2H4 Banshees and F9F8 Cougars in the first operational Marine Corps jet fighter squadron. He subsequently qualified as a helicopter pilot, served as officer in charge of a unit in Mt. Fuji, Japan. For a time he lectured on Communism at the Fleet Marine Force Pacific Leadership School at the El Toro Marine Corps base in southern California. In the Reserves, he rose to the rank of Colonel, and served as commanding officer of a unit at the El Toro base.

He first made headlines in 1962 while stationed in southern California as a Marine officer. With nothing more than the sheer authority of his voice, he disarmed an attacker who was stabbing a woman near the El Toro base.

His career in public service – which would eventually span 18 years – began in 1964 when, at the age of 34, he was elected as the Republican state senator from Orange County, then nationally known as a conservative bastion. He was reelected two years later.

In 1970 he easily won election as Orange County’s US Congressional representative. In Washington, DC, where he served on the House Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee and on the House Internal Security Committee, he quickly established himself as a one of the country’s most articulate and outspokenly right-wing political figures. A writer for a San Diego newspaper remarked: “Schmitz has developed a reputation as a respected adversary, even though still the greenest of freshmen under House seniority rules. And even some liberal opponents begrudgingly give him credit for providing light moments in a city that has too few of them.”

Throughout his political career, Schmitz was a steadfast supporter of such causes as limited government, states’ rights, and a strong national defense, and a staunch opponent of abortion and Communism. When asked about his principled conservatism, Schmitz explained that the “middle of the road” is determined by how far either side, left or right, is willing to push.

Political supporters and opponents alike respected and even admired John Schmitz the man. A close friend and colleague summed up:

Schmitz is not a man to make enemies easily. Unlike many with firm and unyielding principles, he can disagree without being disagreeable. He has won the grudging respect even of political foes. With all who share his deep and abiding concern about the future of individual liberty in America, he accentuates common interests while stirring admiration for his refusal to compromise on fundamentals... A constant imp of humor leavens his earnestness and dogged sense of purpose. Few who meet him can dislike him.

On the occasion of his death, the Chairman of the Orange County Republican Party said: “His sense of humor, intelligence and enthusiasm will long be remembered by his Orange County friends.”

Schmitz is perhaps best remembered for his colorful 1972 bid for the US presidency as the candidate of the American Party. After a boisterous campaign, he received 1.1 million votes in 32 states. Political commentator Michael Barone observed that he distinguished himself with his direct talk and “puckishly humorous” wit. For example, commenting on Richard Nixon’s famous 1972 visit to China, he quipped: “I have no objection to President Nixon going to China. I just object to his coming back.” When asked about Nixon’s Defense Secretary, Melvin Laird, Schmitz said that he had no complaint, adding: “Of course, Otto von Bismarck was my first choice.”

During the 1972 campaign, he often repeated his simple, three-point platform: One, in foreign affairs, we should always treat our friends better than our enemies; Two, never go to war unless you plan on winning; Three, domestically, those who work ought to live better than those who won’t.

In 1978 he returned to the California state senate after election as a Republican representing Newport Beach.

Schmitz’ sometimes tragic personal and family life also made headlines. His political career came to sudden end in 1982 after it was revealed that he had a pregnant mistress and 15-month old son by the woman, who had been his student in a political science class he taught at Santa Ana College. In 1997 one of his daughters, Mary Kay LeToureau, a married teacher in Washington state at the time, was convicted of carrying on a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old pupil, by whom she eventually had two children.

Schmitz received a Bachelor’s degree from Marquette University in 1952 with a major in philosophy and a minor in history, and, after attending night classes, a Master’s degree in 1960 from California State University at Long Beach. He was a Ph.D. candidate in Political Philosophy at Claremont Graduate School, and did a sabbatical at Georgetown University. Following his active duty in the Marine Corps and throughout his years of elected public service, he taught political science and philosophy at Santa Ana College in southern California, retiring as a professor in 1990.

Among his publications are two books: The Viet Cong Front in the United States (1971); and Stranger in the Arena: The Anatomy of an Amoral Decade 1964–1974 (1974). He also wrote the Introduction to Gary Allen’s best-seller, None Dare Call It Conspiracy (1971).

Schmitz also played the violin, was an able political cartoonist, and painter of Orange County seascapes. He was a devout Roman Catholic. In recent years he devoted much time to the family-owned vineyard, “Chapelle Charlemagne,” in Rappahannock County, Virginia.

John and his wife of 47 years, Mary, had seven children. Two of their sons are lawyers in the Washington, DC, area. In addition to his wife and children, Schmitz is survived by numerous grand-children, as well as five brothers and sisters in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, area.

He will be missed by his many friends and admirers.


Source: Reprinted from The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 19, no. 6, p. 28.


Published with permission, courtesy of the Institute for Historical Review (IHR).

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