Jeffords, James M(errill) 1934-
JEFFORDS, James M(errill) 1934-
Born May 11, 1934, in Rutland, VT; son of Olin M. (a chief justice of the Vermont Supreme Court) and Marion H. Jeffords; married Elizabeth Daley (divorced, 1976); married, 1986; children: Leonard, Laura. Education: Yale University, B.S., 1956; Harvard Law School, L.L.B., 1962. Politics: Independent Hobbies and other interests: Tae kwon do (black belt), cross-country skiing, downhill skiing.
Office—728 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510.
Politician. Vermont state senator, 1967-68; Vermont attorney general, 1969-73; Vermont's songressman-at-large, 1975-88; chair, House Environmental Study Conference, 1978-79; advisor, Law of the Sea Conference; U.S senator from Vermont, 1988-,; chair of Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee, co-chair of Northeast-Midwest Senate Coalition, ranking member of Environment and Public Works committee, member of Finance committee, Veterans' Affairs committee, and Special Committee on Aging. Military service: U.S. Navy, 1956-59; U.S. Reserve, 1959-90.
(With Hank Brown) Trip to Croatia, Syria, Jordan, Israel, and Egypt: A Report to the Committee onForeign Relations, United States Senate, U.S. Government Printing Office (Washington, DC), 1993.
An Independent Man: Adventures of a Public Servant, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2003.
Senator James M. Jeffords was born in Rutland, Vermont in 1934, the son of Marion H. Jeffords and Olin M. Jeffords, who was a former chief justice of the Vermont Supreme Court. Jeffords grew up with a strong sense of the importance of public service. In An Independent Man: Adventures of a Public Servant, Jeffords recounts the story of his life and work, including growing up in Rutland, his somewhat wild adolescence, putting himself through college, his three-year service in the U.S. Navy, and his courtship of his wife during his years at Harvard Law School.
By the time he was in his first term as a Vermont state senator, Jeffords was already known for being a renegade Republican. Unlike many other members of his party, he supported welfare bills and protection of the environment. When he became attorney general of Vermont, he helped draft and pass legislation that had a lasting impact on Vermont and the United States, including the bottle bill, a ban on billboards, and land protection legislation.
Although Jeffords ran for governor of Vermont, he lost because his views didn't represent those of the conservative Republicans in the state. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, but he was so broke at the time that he had to live in his office. At the same time, he was having trouble in his marriage; he and his wife divorced, and he later remarried. During his years in congress, however, he devoted himself to issues of conservation, energy, and dairy farming. Still a renegade, Jeffords was the only Republican to vote against Ronald Reagan's budget. He supported Bill Clinton's Health Care Reform bill and opposed Clinton's impeachment. Eventually, Jeffords's differences of opinion with the George W. Bush administration and the Republican Party led him to leave the party and become an independent. In the New York Times Book Review, Alison Mitchell wrote that this is "an extraordinary book because of Jeffords's surprising and touching candor about the strains a political life places on families."
Jeffords tells the story of his change from Republican to independent in My Declaration of Independence. In the book, he described that time by saying, "Looking ahead, I can see more and more instances where I will disagree with the President on very fundamental issues." Jeffords did not make his decision lightly, noting that his decision hurt many of his Republican colleagues and friends. In addition, it was detrimental to his formerparty because it deprived the Republicans of control of the U.S. Senate, which they had only recently achieved. "But in the end," he wrote, "I had to be true to what I thought was right and leave the consequences to sort themselves out in the days ahead."
As a senator, Jeffords remains particularly concerned with the issue of education. He told Richard Andrews and Timothy McQuiston in Vermont Business Magazine, "You can't educate yourself. And if you don't have a good educational system available, you're being shortchanged. That serious problem is at the heart of our other problems in this country right now. I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that every kid in this country has an opportunity for a good education. Right now, we are a miserable failure."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, December 15, 2001, David Pitt, review of An Independent Man: Adventures of a Public Servant, p. 683.
Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, November 12, 1988, "James M. Jeffords," p. 3262.
Entertainment Weekly, July 13, 2001, Matthew Flamm, "Between the Lines," p. 76.
Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2002, review of An Independent Man, p. 1590.
Library Journal, November 15, 2002, Michael A. Genovese, review of An Independent Man, p. 88.
National Journal, April 27, 2002, Kirk Victor, "From Jeffords, No Regrets," p. 1232.
National Review, July 23, 2001.
New York Times Book Review, March 16, 2003, Alison Mitchell, "Take Away One," p. 14.
Publishers Weekly, January 13, 2003, review of An Independent Man, p. 48.
Vermont Business, February, 2002, Richard Andrews, Timothy McQuiston, interview with Jeffords, p. 85.
Jim Jeffords: U.S. Senator for Vermont,http://Jeffords.senate.gov/ (May 1, 2003).*