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Post-Watergate era congressman Edgar had local ties

Brother Ralph founded The Next Picture Show

Published: Saturday, April 27, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT
Robert W. Edgar

BURKE, Va. – Robert W. Edgar, who represented Pennsylvania for six terms in the House of Representatives after the Watergate scandal and went on to lead the public interest group Common Cause, left a mark in Dixon.

Edgar died Tuesday at the age of 69.

Edgar’s brother, Ralph, and his wife, Jane, live in Grand Detour, and they founded The Next Picture Show, a non-profit art gallery in downtown Dixon, in 2004.

About 5 years ago, Robert, also a member at The Next Picture Show, gave a speech in front of “a number of people” at the art gallery titled “Parlor Talk with Bob Edgar.”

Bonnie Kime, director of The Next Picture Show, said “Bob” had a strong knowledge of how to run non-profit organizations that did not fall on deaf ears in Dixon.

Kime said Robert Edgar was very open about fundraising strategies.

“He had a way about him of how to raise money,” Kime said. “He knew how to energize non-profits, and Ralph referred to him many times.”

Edgar, a liberal Democrat, was elected in 1974 in a large class of newcomers that came to Washington in the wake of the Watergate scandal. His political career ended after he lost a U.S. Senate campaign in 1986 to Arlen Specter.

Edgar had maintained an active travel schedule with Common Cause until his death, advocating for open government. He was the group’s president and CEO from 2007 until his death.

He also served as secretary general of the National Council of Churches from 2000 to 2007.

His wife said that his career after politics was a natural extension of his work as an elected official; he gravitated to jobs in public service.

“He was always trying to make the world a better place for all human beings,” she said.

Common Cause Board Chairman Robert Reich said in a written statement: “Bob will be remembered for his decency, kindness, compassion and humor. His deep commitment to social justice and strengthening our democracy is his greatest gift to Common Cause and the nation. Our hearts are with Bob’s family, his wife, Merle, and sons Andrew, David and Rob, and their families.”

Edgar grew up in Springfield, Pa., in Delaware County, and graduated from Lycoming College.

He represented Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District outside of Philadelphia, a seat held mostly by Republicans since before the Civil War. 

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