Conn. Congressman John Monagan Dies

By Louie Estrada
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 25, 2005

John S. Monagan, 93, a Democratic congressman, lawyer and author who represented Connecticut for seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, died Oct. 23 at his home in Washington. He had heart disease.

Rep. Monagan, a former mayor of Waterbury, Conn., and standout scholar-athlete in college and high school, was elected to the House in 1958, when he defeated Republican incumbent James T. Patterson. The victory was part of a sweep by Democrats elected to office that year in Connecticut.

In Congress, Rep. Monagan chaired a House Government Operations subcommittee that in the late 1960s helped uncover irregularities in the Federal Housing Administration's financing of the Housing Renewal program.

Rep. Monagan, who spoke French fluently and could converse in Italian, German and Spanish, was interested in international relations as a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. He led mission study trips to Soviet satellite countries and worked to improve trade relations with Latin American countries.

In 1972, in his attempt for an eighth two-year term, Rep. Monagan lost to Republican Ronald A. Sarasin. Rep. Monagan decided to stay in Washington, where he helped open an office for New York law firm Whitman & Ransom.

Rep. Monagan, a partner in the firm, retired from his legal practice in government relations in 1979 after undergoing a second cancer operation. His first was in 1941 for colon cancer, which disqualified him for military service during World War II.

A prolific writer throughout his life, Rep. Monagan began to concentrate more on publishing books, articles and book reviews. His book credits include "Horace: Priest of the Poor" (1985), a biography of the Rev. Horace McKenna, and "The Grand Panjandrum: Mellow Years of Justice Holmes" (1988).

Rep. Monagan's opinion pieces and articles on a wide variety of topics were published in The Washington Post, the New York Times Sunday Magazine and the Washington Times.

He also lectured as president of the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress. His lectures usually centered on the importance of public service, which motivated him to run for office, said his son Charles Monagan of Waterbury.

Rep. Monagan was born in Waterbury, where his father was a physician. The younger Monagan was captain of the state champion swimming team in high school and set a record in the backstroke while at Dartmouth College, where he was an honors student in French literature and editor of the Jack-o-Lantern, Dartmouth's humor magazine.

He graduated from Dartmouth and in 1937 received a law degree from Harvard Law School. He then joined his uncle's law practice in Waterbury and immersed himself in politics as an alderman and finance commissioner, among other posts.

After an unsuccessful bid for Congress in 1942, Rep. Monagan became mayor of Waterbury in 1943.

Survivors include his wife of 56 years, Rosemary Brady Monagan of Washington; another son, Michael Monagan of Culver City, Calif.; three daughters, Mary Parthenia of Charlottesville, Laura Monagan of Kensington and Susan Monagan of Ithaca, N.Y.; and 10 grandchildren.

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