We Were Fortunate For 18 Years With Houghton
I first got to know Amo Houghton in the mid 1970s when I represented Chautauqua County in the New York State Assembly. He was chairman of Corning Inc. and would periodically call together all of the state elected officials representing the Southern Tier to discuss common problems and issues facing the region.
Usually, I would receive a call from Reggie Lenna or Quint Anderson, two local business leaders, and they would coordinate the schedule.
State Senator Jess Present and I would meet Reggie and Quint at the Jamestown Airport. We would fly to Olean, pick up Assemblyman Dan Walsh and then head to Corning.
Walsh and I were Democrats and most everyone else was Republican. But that didn’t make any difference. We were going to Corning to talk about jobs, the economy and what we could do jointly to help advance the region. Amo would chair the meeting.
In 1986, when then Congressman Lundine announced that he was running for Lieutenant Governor, Stan called and asked me to consider running for the Congressional seat. I declined the opportunity. Fortunately, that was one of the smarter (or luckier) political decisions I made in my life because Amo Houghton soon thereafter made the announcement that he would seek the post.
It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that a Democrat was not going to beat a highly respected business leader like Amo Houghton in a district which was and still is a Republican bastion.
Amo didn’t need the job of Congressman. He had plenty of money and had recently retired from a successful career at Corning as head of a Fortune 500 Company.
He was running because he wanted to help grow and advance the Southern Tier.
He actually had been considering becoming a missionary in Africa for the Episcopal Church when the Congressional seat opened. I have always thought that, in a way, he chose Congress as an alternative missionary project, giving him an opportunity to represent and help his home community.
Among other accomplishments, Amo was a World War II Marine veteran and was very supportive of efforts I became involved with in Washington to build a National World War II Memorial. Periodically, I would stop by his office on Capitol Hill and update him on where we were with the project.
Amo was always fighting to keep his Republican Party in the middle of the road.
My father would have described him as an “Eisenhower Republican.” Amo was also not afraid to “buck” his own Party when he believed they were going in the wrong direction.
The last time I saw him was about a year ago. I stopped and had coffee with him in the old family residence in Corning. His grandfather had built the home on a hill that overlooked the glass company’s factory down below. Though he also had a house in Massachusetts, for Amo, Corning was always home.
It was here where he wanted to spend his last days.
This is where his heart was.
We are fortunate that for 18 years this great man represented us in the United States House of Representatives.
Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.