But lest the nation didn't notice, he overwhelmingly won reelection last November, galloping to victory with his mane of silver hair looking quite nice, thank you very much.
On the day of the censure vote in December, Charles B. Rangel - decorated Korean War veteran, graduate of St. John's University School of Law, co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus, the first black chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, the man who dethroned legendary Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr.- stood on the House floor, vainly hoping that his colleagues would opt for a reprimand, a far milder rebuke. But the experienced House veteran didn't have the votes. The final tally was 333 for censure, 79 opposed.
"Would I hope this hadn't have happened? Bet your ass! Would I have expected, however, to receive these letters from heads of state supporting me? Meeting Kissinger on the train like that? Hearing from senators like [Orrin] Hatch and [Arlen] Specter? They've all said to me: 'You got a raw deal. You were the best before and you are still the best; nothing has changed.' "
And yet, so much had changed.
Those who know Rangel and have seen him since his censure have noticed a changed man: hurt and somber no matter what he might say on trains between Manhattan and Washington. "His spirit hurts for himself and for his wife, who cried almost daily during this ordeal," said Inez Dickens, a Harlem councilwoman and Rangel confidante. "Most of the charges related to CCNY and the Rangel Institute. Well, it was for poor kids. CCNY used to be free. It isn't anymore."
Arthur Barnes, a retired health industry executive and board chairman of Harlem's National Jazz Museum, has known Rangel for more than 50 years and said that he now feels both pity and embarrassment for him. "He was not himself during those public pronouncements," Barnes said, referring to Rangel's intemperate comments about the ethics committee. "This man had an ambition to be chairman for 40 years. It comes to him - and then it's over."
Barnes said he knew Rangel would not take the ethics hearings quietly. "His reaction was a normal Harlem reaction: If you are attacked, you fight back. This was a dagger to his heart. He thought he might only get a slap on the wrist."