On January 3, 2014, Andy Jacobs Jr., a U.S. Congressman who served the people of Indiana for 30 years, was given an honor few Hoosiers are accorded: lying in state in the Indiana Statehouse. In his remarks at the service honoring the late representative (who died at 81 on Dec. 28, 2013), Gov. Mike Pence noted it's an accolade the man now shares with the likes of President Benjamin Harrison, James Whitcomb Riley and Julia Carson.
Several hundred of Jacobs' fellow Hoosiers — the people he represented and those who both assisted and opposed Jacobs in his efforts — assembled to bid farewell. Statehouse staff scrambled to find chairs as the crowd rolled in from a bone-chilling morning, a testament to the man Pence referred to as "difficult to debate and impossible to dislike."
The governor noted that it was entirely fitting that a man like Jacobs be honored in "the house of the people." Pence ended his remarks by kneeling in front of Kim Hood Jacobs, Jacobs' widow, and presenting her with an Indiana state flag.
The smell of fresh flowers was pervasive, wafting from the large bouquets to the left of Jacobs' flag-draped casket. To the right were two pictures of Jacobs from his days serving in the U.S. Congress. The casket and the lectern behind sat between two of the marble statues that encircle the rotunda, the figures labeled "Justice" and "Liberty."
Pence spoke immediately after a musical prologue, a rendition of the "The Impossible Dream" from gospel singer Keith Hayes that boomed across the polished stone of the interior. Pence's words were followed with remarks from Jacobs' sons, Steven and Andrew.
Both of his boys cemented Jacobs' legacy as an incredibly frugal man, a trait that extended not only to Jacobs' political philosophy but to his personal life, too. Andrew recalled that the U.S. Capitol police had once notified the Jacobs that "some bum" had parked in the Congressman's space. They hadn't surmised the guy in the paint-spattered Wal-Mart slacks driving the burgundy '79 heap-of-an-Olds was the representative for Indiana's 10th District.
Harkening Jacobs' reputation as a "fiscal hawk," someone always on the lookout for ways to cut waste, Pence recalled how the congressman had famously sent back a color TV that had been delivered to the congressman's office as a perk of the gig.
"I know of no good reason for viewing [then House Speaker] Tip O'Neill in living color," said Jacobs.
The commitment to public service was something that Jacobs always carried with him as well: Jacobs carried hedge clippers in his trunk, ready to clear overgrowth from an obscured road sign — a chore that fell to the kids on a fairly regular basis.
Friends and colleagues all recalled Jacobs' unwillingness to engage in the kind of campaigning that modern voters are all-too-familiar with: Rep. André Carson said that Jacobs wasn't a man who "ever wanted his name on the door. He never took money from a political action committee, and he never attacked an opponent." Carson and others noted that Jacobs was the quintessential man of his era, a time when congresspeople could engage in utterly contentious debates of the floors of both houses, then set aside partisan squabbling to tip a glass together.
The subtext was evident: Those after-hours get-togethers allowed lawmakers to see one another in more than a single dimension. It's tough to engage in a scorched-earth policy when you're friends with the man whose village you're about to burn.
"He was a man who said 'It doesn't have to be this way.' That was his gift," said Carson.
As a mentor, Jacobs was unparalleled, according to Carson. If young André spent the night at Jacobs' place — Carson referred to Jacobs as a "second father" — the next morning's entertainment consisted of a careful reading of the morning papers.
"Then he'd quiz me: 'What do you think of this Iran-Contra scandal?' C'mon, I'm just a kid!"
Not to say that Jacobs wasn't still a politician, mind you. Carson, who referred to Jacobs in his remarks as "my Obi-Wan Kenobi," recalled that Jacobs had called Carson to express his disapproval at one of Carson's campaign spots. Carson had aired an attack ad that denigrated his opponent during an exceptionally tough Congressional race.
Jacobs made Carson promise never to air that type of ad again, but "[Jacobs] said, 'I'll give you a pass this time — 'cause that other guy is such a jerk.'"
Jim Beatty, Jacobs' longtime campaign manager, noted Jacobs' fearlessness as a politician. "He experienced terror and fear in Korea — never here, never in politics," Beatty said.
More than just a man who turned down congressional pay raises, Jacobs was a man who consistently spoke out against America's military adventurism, beginning with his opposition to the war in Vietnam. Beatty said that Jacobs had the ability to "see around corners," and saw the potential quagmire that lay ahead as U.S. forces began to assemble in Southeast Asia.
The self-described "parsimonious progressive" was also an ardent supporter of civil rights. Before "Taps" was sounded by a Marine Corps bugler, before "The Marine's Hymn" was played by a piper on the balcony above his casket, Carson noted that Jacobs' last NUVO "Thought Bite" summed up the man best:
"If there's one thing I hate, it's hate."
Editor's note: Donations are being accepted to The Andy Jacobs Scholarship Fund, IUPUI, P.O. Box 6460, Indianapolis, IN, 46206