Carl A. Elliott, 85, an Alabama Democrat who championed federal health and education programs while serving in the House of Representatives from 1949 to 1965, died Jan. 9 at his home in Jasper, Ala. The cause of death was not reported. He was a leading force behind the passage of the National Defense Education Act of 1958, which helped more than 15 million students attend college. Mr. Elliott maintained that the passage of the act was the proudest achievement of his years in Congress. He also proposed and fought for measures that came to be identified with President Lyndon B. Johnson's "Great Society," especially Medicare. Mr. Elliott and Sen. Lester Hill, a fellow Alabama Democrat, had long favored national health care assistance and increased government research in the medical sciences. Mr. Elliott was the classic "uplift the poor" politician of the South, working for measures to comfort the very young and the old. Just as he seemed to be making historic headway in Congress, he was losing his political base in Alabama. The state was becoming divided on racial issues, with violence against civil rights workers in Alabama appearing on the nation's television sets and a powerful new political force, George Corley Wallace, making the most of the state's racial tensions. Mr. Elliott had no use for "playing the race card." He calmly denounced the Ku Klux Klan and the John Birch Society and found himself one of the few prominent political figures in Alabama to publicly support the 1960 Democratic presidential ticket. After John F. Kennedy's victory, Mr. Elliott was named to a crucial seat on the House Rules Committee, arguably the most important seat a congressman could achieve in the early 1960s. In that position he helped break the coalition of conservative Republicans and southern Democrats who had united to nearly defy the will of the House Democratic majority in the very running of the chamber. In 1964, Alabama nominated and elected its eight congressmen at large. In the primary, Mr. Elliott came in ninth, an outcome widely seen as another victory for then-Gov. Wallace and a defeat for racial moderation. In 1966, Wallace was prohibited by law from seeking another term as governor so his wife, Lurleen, decided to run for the office. Mr. Elliott made a valiant and underfinanced run against her and lost. Mr. Elliott was the oldest of nine children born near Jasper to a modest Alabama farm family. He worked his way through the University of Alabama by waiting tables, doing yardwork and running the campus boiler. He received a bachelor's degree in 1933 and a law degree in 1936. He practiced law and served as a city attorney and recorders court judge before running for Congress in 1948. He served in the Army during World War II. After his 1964 election defeat, Mr. Elliott did consulting work for the Commerce Department, practiced law and suffered ill health. He fell on hard times, having given up his congressional pension to honor campaign debts. In 1990, he was named the first recipient of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation's Profiles in Courage Award. The award was named after Kennedy's Pulitzer Prize-winning account of members of Congress who faced political ruin head-on to stand by their beliefs. At the award ceremony, Mr. Elliott was presented with a trophy made by Tiffany & Co. and a $25,000 stipend. It was noted that Mr. Elliott had confronted public scorn, personal abuse and defeat for "the good of the nation he loved." In 1992, Doubleday published his autobiography, "The Cost of Courage: The Journey of an American Congressman." In it he looked back most fondly on his work for the National Defense Education Act, writing, "I still have no doubt that education is the answer to almost every problem this nation has."