Weis, Jessica McCullough (1901–1963)
Weis, Jessica McCullough (1901–1963)
U.S. congressional representative (January 3, 1959–January 3, 1963). Name variations: Judy Weis; Mrs. Charles W. Weis, Jr. Born on July 8, 1901, in Chicago, Illinois; died on May 1, 1963, in Rochester, New York; daughter of Charles H. McCullough, Jr. (president of Lackawanna Steel Company) and Jessie (Martin) McCullough; educated in schools in Buffalo, New York, and graduated in 1916 from Miss Wright's School in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania; attended Madame Rieffel's French School in New York City, 1916–17; married Charles William Weis, Jr. (a stockbroker and businessman), on September 24, 1921 (died 1958); children: Charles McCullough Weis; Jessica Weis Warren; Joan Weis Jameson.
Served as vicechair of the Citizens' Republican Finance Committee (1935); organized motor caravans for Republican presidential nominee Alfred M. Landon (1936); was vicechair of the Monroe County Republican Committee (1937–52); appointed to the New York State Republican Committee's executive committee (1938); was vicepresident of the National Federation of Republican Women's Clubs (1938); elected president of the National Federation of Republican Women's Clubs, and served as delegate-at-large to the Republican National Convention (1940); seconded the nomination of Thomas E. Dewey for president and was associate campaign manager (1948); received appointment to the national advisory board of the Federal Civil Defense Administration (1954); elected to the House of Representatives for New York's 38th District (1958, 1960); coordinated the Republican congressional campaign in New York State (1960).
Jessica McCullough Weis, called "Judy" by her friends, was active in the Republican Party on local, state, and national levels. Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1901, she moved with her family to Buffalo, New York, while still a young girl, and was educated both in Buffalo and at Miss Wright's School in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. After graduating from Miss Wright's in 1916, she spent a year at Madame Rieffel's French School in New York City. When she was 20, she married Charles William Weis, Jr., a stockbroker who was also chair of a lithograph company, and moved with him to Rochester, New York.
Weis had three children over the next years, but despite the demands of family life made time to become involved in civic activities. In 1923, she founded the Chatterbox Club, a primarily social group that also organized charitable activities. Twelve years later, during the Depression year of 1935, she became vicepresident of the Rochester Junior League. Weis also entered politics for the first time that year when she accepted an appointment from Monroe County Republican leader Thomas E. Broderick to be vicechair of the Citizens' Republican Finance Committee. Her organization of Republican presidential nominee Alfred M. Landon's local motorcades the following year earned her promotion to vicechair of the Monroe County Republican Committee in 1937.
Weis entered into state politics in 1938, when she was appointed to the New York State Republican Committee's executive committee. That same year, she was named vicepresident of the National Federation of Republican Women's Clubs, and in 1940 became the federation's second president as well as a delegate-at-large to the Republican National Convention. She became a fixture at the convention through the 1940s and 1950s as four-time vicechair of the New York delegation, and beginning in 1943 was a 20-year member of the Republican National Committee. During World War II, she chaired the Rochester Canteen and volunteered with the Red Cross Blood Bank. In 1948, Weis seconded the nomination of Thomas E. Dewey for president and became an associate campaign manager for the Dewey-Warren ticket, the first woman ever to achieve that level within a presidential campaign. While she planned both men's and women's campaign activities, she paid particular attention to gaining the support of women voters by keeping them informed of the Republican Party's plans for appointing women to important government positions. Although Dewey lost that year, in 1954 Weis was appointed to the national advisory board of the Federal Civil Defense Administration by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. That same year she was named an advisor to the United States delegate to the Inter-American Commission of Women. She also headed the committee that reorganized the 1956 Republican National Convention, held in San Francisco.
When Kenneth B. Keating, congressional representative for New York's 38th district, was nominated as the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in August 1958, Weis decided to make a bid for his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. The 38th District covered both rural farmland in Wayne County and the eastern, industrial half of Monroe County, and Weis campaigned at every store, factory and shopping center in the areas, winning a 26,000-vote majority over Democrat Alphonse L. Cassetti. As a member of the 86th Congress, she was assigned to the Committee on Government Operations and the Committee on the District of Columbia. In the following Congress, she left the former to become a member of the Committee on Science and Astronautics. Weis' political philosophy tended toward Eisenhower's ideas of economy in government and a balanced budget. She consistently voted against spending measures on such issues as veterans' housing, airport construction, and water pollution control, and backed changes for the farm program, extension of the military draft, authorization of $180,500,000 for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, extension of the Renegotiations Act of 1951, the Landrum-Griffin labor bill and state-hood for Hawaii. She also supported a proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, which eventually failed to achieve ratification.
On behalf of her constituency, Weis went before the Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare to seek the continuation of special exemptions for the fruit growers in her district.
She sent out newsletters to her constituents regarding major issues and made regular appearances on a Rochester television and radio program, on which she interviewed political personalities. In 1960, Weis coordinated the Republican congressional campaign in New York State while seeking re-election to her seat in the House. She declined to run for a third term in June 1962 due to health considerations, and died less than a year later, on May 1, 1963.
Current Biography 1959. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1959.
Current Biography 1963. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1963.
Office of the Historian. Women in Congress, 1917–1990. Commission on the Bicentenary of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1991.
Susan J. Walton , freelance writer, Berea, Ohio