- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 17, 2005

Bill Lehman, 91, former congressman

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Former U.S. Rep. Bill Lehman, who represented part of Miami-Dade County in Congress for 20 years, died March 16 at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach. He was 91.

Mr. Lehman rose through House ranks to become chairman of a House Appropriations Committee panel that oversaw transportation spending, giving him broad authority over billions of dollars for highways, seaports and mass transit systems.

Before entering politics in 1966, he spent 30 years as a used-car dealer in Miami who called himself “Alabama Bill” in advertisements. U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican, said Mr. Lehman still liked to refer to himself as a “car salesman from Alabama” and never lost his common touch with people.

“He was a gentleman; he was admired, respected and loved; and you can’t say that about a lot of members of Congress,” Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen said.

Mr. Lehman served in the House from 1973 to 1993, when he retired for what he said were health reasons. He also would have faced a Democratic primary against Gwen Margolis, the president of the Florida Senate, and the possibility that his district would be combined with another incumbent House member’s when districts were re-drawn.

He had a liberal voting record, opposing a constitutional amendment banning flag-burning, voting against military aid to Nicaragua’s contra rebels and against sending troops to the Persian Gulf in the first Iraq war. He also went to Cuba in 1988 and negotiated release of three political prisoners and was an advocate for Haitian refugees.

Mr. Lehman was born Oct. 5, 1913, in Selma, Ala, and graduated from the University of Alabama. Besides the car business, he was a schoolteacher and was elected to the Dade County school board in 1966, becoming its chairman in 1971.

Mr. Lehman is survived by his wife of 66 years, Joan; two sons, Bill Jr. and Thomas; and six grandchildren.

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