Former Rep. Brooks Hays (D-Ark.), a gentle, preaching man who raised his voice for racial moderation in his native South and for foreign aid for the less fortunate of the world, died Monday in his home in Chevy Chase after an apparent stroke. He was 83.
Mr. Hays represented the Fifth District of Arkansas for 16 years before being defeated for reelection in 1958. His defeat for a ninth term was brought about by his efforts to mediate in the clash between federal and state forces over the integration of Little Rock's Central High School.
The then-governor of Arkansas, Orval E. Faubus ordered the Arkansas National Guard to block school integration in Little Rock, and President Eisenhower responded by ordering U.S. troops to enforce integration orders. Mr. Hays had the difficult and unenviable task of trying to defuse the situation. Mr. Hays arranged a meeting held between Eisenhower and Faubus on Sept. 14, 1957. The meeting proved fruitless.
After winning the 1958 Democratic primary, Mr. Hays was defeated for reelection by a segregation write-in candidate who was a member of the Little Rock school board. The House declared Mr. Hays' opponent the winner after investigating charges of voting irregularities.
On Nov. 6, 1958, The Post, in an editorial said, "The defeat of Rep. Brooks Hays is by all odds the sorriest incident in this week's voting. He was an able and genial legislator with a keen understanding of the public interest."
In a November 1958 letter to Mr. Hays, the then-vice president Richard M. Nixon, in an unusual gesture from a leader of one party to a member of the opposition, said that none of the results of the election that year was "more tragic" than the defeat of Brooks Hays.
During his years in the House, Mr. Hays sought the "middle ground" in civil rights. He favored the abolition of the poll tax by constitutional amendment and federal action against segregation in interstate travel. But he wanted the federal government to enter lynching cases only after local authorities had failed to prosecute, and wanted fair employment practice laws with slight enforcement powers.
He had long been interested in foreign relations, and from 1951 until leaving the House, served on the Foreign Affairs Committee. He became a leading proponent of foreign aid bills favored by the Truman and Eisenhower administrations. He helped lead the fight for funding for UNNRA, the Greek-Turkish Aid Bill, and emergency aid to Great Britain after World War II.
In July 1957, he led the successful House fight for the Eisenhower administration's three year authorization for foreign aid funding. He also served as a delegate to the United Nations in the mid-1950s.
The U.S. News & World Report said Mr. Hays had a "reputation for finding compromises which are both politically realistic and morally strong."
He was appointed to the board of directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1959, and named assistant secretary of state for congressional relations by John F. Kennedy in 1961. His last government post was as presidential adviser to Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson in 1963 and 1964.
In addition to a career in politics, Mr. Hays was active in religious organizations. A man once called by The Post "one of the gentlest spirits in this hard-boiled town," combined the zest for the life of politics with his own brand of religion. He rose from Baptist Church deacon in his native Russellville, Ark., to that of president of the eight million-member Southern Baptist Convention from 1957 to 1959.
In 1973, he became a lay minister at the Capitol Hill Baptist Church. He told reporters that his church "gave me a year's leave of absence to be a missionary to the Methodists." He implied that he expected only mixed success. He pointed out that his wife, the former Marian Prather, was a Methodist.
Mr. Hays used biblical stories to make points at meetings. He once told Secretary of State Dean Rusk that he should go up to the Hill and perform some political chore personally. Rusk felt his staff should handle it.
Mr. Hays then told Rusk he (Hays) had biblical backing for his position, quoting from a passage that said, "Jacob leaned on his staff and he died." Rusk went to Capitol Hill.
In later years, Mr. Hays lectured at universities, was chairman of the human relations commission of North Carolina, and wrote books. His autobiography, "Politics Is My Parish" was published this July by the Louisiana State University Press.
Mr. Hays was a 1919 graduate of the University of Arkansas, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and a 1922 graduate of George Washington University's law school. He served in the Army during World War I. He worked for the Agriculture Department in Washington and was a prosecutor and private attorney in Arkansas before winning election to the House of Representatives in 1942.
In addition to his wife of 59 years, of Chevy Chase, Mr. Hays' survivors include a daughter, Betty Brooks Bell of Bethesda; a son, Steele Hays, who is an associate justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court and a resident of Little Rock; five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.