The House passed a bill last week naming the post office at 300 Sycamore St. in Waterloo, Iowa, the "H.R. Gross Post Office Building." Gross was a Republican House member from Iowa until 1974, when he retired to the relief of some and the sadness of others.
Gross acted as if he invented the word "curmudgeon." He always planted himself at the GOP leaders' table in the chamber, ready to hop to his feet in defense of the federal Treasury. His dry wit often drew blood from his victims and laughter from the rest. He set the style that was taken up by former U.S. representative Robert Bauman (R-Md.). Today a number of outspoken young Republicans take turns in the "curmudgeon's seat."
It was difficult to believe that Gross wouldn't have cringed at the idea of spending even a dime to rename a post office after him, even though he was a Postal Service supporter throughout his days on the Post Office and Civil Service Committee. So a reporter went rummaging through the record to see what Gross thought of such things.
It turns out that renaming buildings was not one of his bugaboos, although he once objected to naming an aircraft carrier for former colleague Carl Vinson (D-Ga.), on the basis that Vinson was still alive at the time.
But on April 19, 1972, as Gross railed about spending $1.5 billion for 63 new federal buildings, including the Kennedy Center ("that cultural thing down in Foggy Bottom"), Rep. Kenneth J. Gray (D-Ill.) told Gross, "The gentleman from Iowa has been extremely helpful and I would like to see one of those buildings built in the gentleman from Iowa's district and see the name put on it -- the H.R. Gross building."
"Just spare me that, if you please," Gross shot back. "Just spare me in that."