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Former Alabama Congressman John Buchanan has died

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Former Congressman John H. Buchanan Jr. died on Monday March 5 at the age of 89.

Buchanan was a Baptist minister. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1945 to 1946. Following the navy service Buchanan attended Samford University. He did graduate work at University of Virginia at Charlottesville. He graduated from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville in 1957. He pastored Churches in Tennessee, Alabama, and Virginia.

While serving as a pastor in Birmingham in 1962, Buchanan ran unsuccessfully for Congress as a Republican. He was also finance director for the Alabama Republican Party. In 1964 Buchanan was elected to Congress, defeating incumbent George Huddleston Jr. by 21 percent. President Lyndon B. Johnson’s signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 led to the state voting for Barry Goldwater and the Republican Party after being solidly Democrat since Reconstruction ended.

Buchanan would serve til 1981. Buchanan was a moderate Republican who supported civil rights and women’s rights. He led efforts in Congress to investigate the Klu Klux Klan.

He was the first Alabama Congressman to nominate African-Americans to the service academies. In Congress he supported American involvement in the Vietnam War, fought for the rights of Christians and Jews behind the Iron Curtain and for the Black majorities in Southern Rhodesia and South Africa and supported statehood for Washington D.C. He served as a delegate to to the 28th United Nationals General Assembly. He served on the U.N. Human Rights Commission from 1978 to 1980.

Buchanan was challenged in the Republican primary of 1978 by the more conservative Albert L. Smith Jr. and again in 1980, losing to Smith.

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In 1981 President Ronald Reagan appointed him as a member of the U.S. delegation to the U.N.

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Buchanan lived in Bethesda, Maryland after leaving Congress.

Buchanan served on the board of directors for the liberal group People for the American Way, founded by Norman Lear, for many years.  For many years he engaged in debates on the religious right on television shows.

Buchanan and his wife Betty have two daughters and three granddaughters. His wife of 50 years Elizabeth Moore died in 2011. He is survived by his wife and granddaughters.

His daughter Liz Buchanan said that he died from complications from dementia at an assisted living center in Rockville, Maryland.

(Original reporting by the Washington Post contributed to this report.)

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