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Sunday, May 8, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 a.m.

Peter Rodino, ran Nixon impeachment panel, dies

The Associated Press

Rep. Peter Rodino was re-elected 19 times.

TRENTON, N.J. — Former Rep. Peter W. Rodino Jr., a little-noticed Democratic congressman until he led the House impeachment investigation of President Nixon, died yesterday. He was 95.

Mr. Rodino died of congestive heart failure at his West Orange home, said a spokeswoman for Seton Hall University Law School, where Mr. Rodino was a professor.

Mr. Rodino spent 10 years working his way through law school at night and after one unsuccessful try, won election to Congress in 1948. He was re-elected 19 times.

Named chairman of the House Judiciary Committee just months before the panel began its historic impeachment hearings in 1974, Mr. Rodino's fair handling of Nixon's impeachment hearings was credited with helping produce a bipartisan majority. The committee approved three articles of impeachment against Nixon, finishing its work on July 30, 1974.

Nixon announced his resignation 10 days later. His successor, Gerald Ford, pardoned Nixon for any federal crimes he may have committed.

"I was appalled when I learned of the issuance of the pardon," Mr. Rodino recalled in an October 1992 interview with The Associated Press.

Although Mr. Rodino often would remark that "the system works," he was bothered that Nixon never admitted any wrongdoing in the Watergate break-in and cover-up.

"Redemption is good for the soul. I feel he should come all the way and acknowledge the fact that he blatantly deceived the American people; that would be real soul-cleansing," Mr. Rodino said in the interview.

He also authored the Judiciary Committee's majority reports on which the civil-rights bills of 1957, 1960, 1964 and 1968 were based. He helped secure House passage of immigration reforms that did away with quotas in 1965 and was instrumental in the passage of the fair-housing law in 1966.

After he left Washington, Mr. Rodino taught at Seton Hall University Law School in Newark and joined his son's law firm in East Hanover.

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