Renah F. Camalier, 86, a former District of Columbia commissioner and a leader in Democratic politics and civic affairs for many years, died at his home in Washington Wednesday following a heart attack.
Mr. Camalier was appointed to the old Board of Commissioners by President Truman in 1952. He held his post on the three-member board, which then served as the city council, for his full three-year term despite pressure that he step down after the Republican landslide that swept Dwight D. Eisenhower into the White House in 1952.
Mr. Camalier's tenure as a commissioner was marked by his efforts to increase welfare payments to the needy, to improve services at D.C. General Hospital and other city health facilities, and his strong support of home rule for the District and respresentation for its residents in Congress.
At a hearing before the Senate District Committee in 1955, he said that it was "un-American to deny us any form of self-government. I pay taxes and think I am as intelliegent as the next man."
Mr. Camalier's efforts to make the government of the city more responsive to its needs preceded his appointment as a commissioner by many years. In 1941, he was named counsel to the Senate District Committee and served as an important link between the District Building and Congress. Over the years, he also served on numerous committees appointed by the commissioners and was chairman of the Board of Visitors to Municipal Hospitals.
Mr. Camalier was prominent in local Democratic Party affairs and was a delegate to many Democratic national conventions. One reason he refused to resign as a commissioner when Eisenhower was elected was that he felt that one commissioner should be a Democrat and another a Republican. The third commissioner, the engineer-commissioner, was an Army officer.
In fact, Mr. Camalier and his first civilian collegue on the board, F. Joseph Donahue, were both Democrats.
Mr. Camalier was born in Washington and was a graduate of old Business High School. There he learned secretarial skills, and it is said that he could take shorthand at 200 words a minute.
In 1906, he began as a clerk for the D.C. Water Department. In 1917, he became secretary to Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was then assistant secretary of the Navy, and remained with the future president until 1920. In 1923, Mr. Camalier became secretary to Sen. Alva B. Adams (D-Colo.). He also earned a law degree at the old National Law School.
He was an assistant U.S. attorney from 1927 to 1930, and then began a private law practice. From 1933 to 1942, he resumed working with Sen. Adams and also worked for the Senate District Committee. Mr. Camalier started a private law practice again in 1942. He remained active in it until his death.
Mr. Camalier received numerous Masonic honors. He was grand master of Masons in the District, a potentate of Almas Temple Shrine, and a deputy of the Scottish Rite of the District of Columbia. he was an honorary 33rd degree Mason and an honorary holder of the Grand Cross.
He was a member of the Metropolitan United Methodist Church and served on its board of trustees for 43 years.
Mr. Camalier's wife, Helen, died in 1975. He is survived by two nephews, Dr. C. Willard Camalier. of Washington, and Robert P. Camalier, of Altamonte Springs, Fla.