It didn’t take long for the U.S. Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee to deliver Claude Pepper ’24 to the top of its list. His nearly 50 years of public service and many accomplishments inspired immediate support from the committee, which recommends stamp subjects to the postmaster general. On September 7, 2000, one day before the 100th anniversary of his birth, the U.S. Postal Service honored the Florida Democrat with the issue of a 33-cent stamp.
Recognized as a champion for the elderly, Pepper served in the U.S. Senate from 1936 to 1951. He was a strong supporter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs. He then served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1963 until 1989. From 1977 to 1983 he chaired the House Select Committee on Aging, continuing his support of the Social Security and Medicare programs. Five days before his death in 1989, when he was the oldest sitting member of Congress, Pepper received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George Bush.
Pepper credited HLS as having provided the greatest motivation in his life. “It converted a provincial American to an American,” said Pepper in an interview published in the Harvard Law Bulletin in 1987. “When I went to law school I’d never been north of Alabama. I had two Confederate general grandfathers and a chip on each shoulder–and when I arrived in Yankee territory, I discovered no one thought a thing about the Civil War.”
The stamp is the second issued in the Distinguished American series and will stay in circulation for about six more months. The committee receives 40,000 to 50,000 suggestions for stamp subjects each year, according to Virginia Noelke, chairwoman of the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee. Currently about 100 new stamps are issued annually.
Among the other Law School alumni who have been honored by the U.S. Postal Service are U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes LL.B. 1845 and Cole Porter ’13-’14.