Rep. William Donlon (Don) Edwards

Rep. William Donlon (Don) Edwards

For Rep. William Donlon (Don) Edwards, D-Calif., adhering to the Bill of Rights was never an option, it was an obligation. During his service in the House of Representatives from 1963 to 1995, Edwards chaired the House Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights.

Edwards always believed that the public is entitled to know what its government is doing, and when his subcommittee received FBI oversight jurisdiction, Edwards — who was a special agent in the FBI in 1940 and 1941 — ordered a General Accounting Office audit of the Bureau’s investigative files. Despite strong FBI resistance, the GAO report revealed that fine recoveries in criminal cases had been enormously overstated, and that the FBI was actually making a profit.

Believing strongly that the FBI and other such agencies were restrained in their actions by the Constitution, Edwards helped to expose unlawful activities in the FBI’s program Cointelpro, which had actively pursued anti-war and civil rights groups such as the Black Panthers and the Weather Underground.

He also spoke critically of the FBI’s Library Awareness Program, which was an attempt to enlist librarians to report persons reading about materials deemed useful to terrorists. Edwards worked to bring about the end the House Un-American Activities Committee and was actively involved in the civil rights movement, in both public and private. He is retired and living in California.

Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001.