Chester E. Holifield


Chester E. Holifield
Mayfield, KY, USA
Death date


Former Representative Chester (Chet) Holifield was one of the few members of Congress to protest the internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II and a policy maker on atomic energy.

Mr. Holifield, a Democrat, was first elected to the House in 1942 and went on to serve 15 more terms. He represented a district in Los Angeles County, and his time in office, which came under six Presidents, was longer than that of any other California member of Congress. He retired in 1973.

He was the chairman of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy several times and served on the House Committee on Government Operations and the House Subcommittee on Legislation and Military Operations.

Mr. Holifield was one of the few to protest plans by Attorney General Earl Warren of California and others to force 110,000 Japanese-Americans on the West Coast into camps during World War II. He voted against the Emergency Detention Act and then voted for its repeal in 1950, Ms. Feldmann said.

He was an outspoken opponent of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, voting in 1945 against giving it permanent status and speaking out on behalf of people in the motion picture industry in Hollywood who were attacked by the committee in 1947.

His civil rights concerns translated later into a bill he wrote that established the Cabinet Committee on Opportunities for Spanish Speaking People within the Office of the President.

Mr. Holifield specialized in atomic energy matters and was influential in legislation enabling development of military and peacetime nuclear programs.

He led a successful effort to stop plans to put the military in sole control of atomic energy, and in 1946, he persuaded Congress to pass legislation creating the civilian Atomic Energy Commission.

He was chairman of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, a member of the President's Special Evaluation Commission on Atomic Bomb Tests at Bikini Atoll and a Congressional adviser to the United States delegations to the International Conferences on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy in Geneva from 1955 to 1972.

He also managed the bill creating the Department of Housing and Urban Development and wrote the bill creating the Department of Transportation.

Born Dec. 3, 1903, in Mayfield, Ky., Mr. Holifield came to California and started a dry-cleaning business in Montebello. He later expanded it to a men's clothing store.

Mr. Holifield died of pneumonia in 1995 at the age of 91 on Balboa Island at Newport Beach in California.

His wife, Vernice, died in 1991 after 68 years of marriage. In addition to Mrs. Feldmann, of Potomac, Md., he is survived by another daughter, Lois Mulholland of Redlands; a sister, Maxine Dungey of Medford, Ore.; a brother, Robert, of Soldatna, Alaska; 15 grandchildren, and 16 great-grandchildren.

Larson Collection Interview

Tape 1

Tape 2