Former U.S. Rep. Vern Ehlers, a nuclear physicist and former Calvin College professor who served more than 17 years in Congress as a moderate Republican representing a west Michigan district, died in Grand Rapids on Tuesday. He was 83.
Born Feb. 6, 1934, in Pipestone, Minn., Ehlers trained as a nuclear physicist at the University of California, Berkeley, after attending Calvin College. Earning his doctorate there, he went on to spend a decade teaching and engaging in scientific research before returning to Calvin College as a physics professor.
Ehlers entered government as a Kent County commissioner, serving from 1975-1983, before moving on to the Michigan House of Representatives, where he served a two-year term. He then went to the state Senate, where he served from 1985 to 1993, when he won a special election to replace Henry.
While in Congress, he rose to become chairman of the House Administration Committee, which oversees management and operational matters in the U.S. House. He also served on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and was a fervent supporter of the Great Lakes.
During a subcommittee meeting in 2007, when the prospects of legislation that could result in a water grab from the Great Lakes came up, the genial Ehlers cooly predicted that if that happened, “I would suspect we (in Michigan) would call up the militia and take up arms. We feel that serious about it.”
As a legislator at both the state and federal levels, Ehlers helped to implement a statewide 911 protocol, rewrote the nation’s science policies and worked to advance scientific education, improve wetlands and address waste storage problems. Also, the Amtrak station in Grand Rapids is named for him.
For the full article, see Todd Spangler, “Former U.S. Rep. Vern Ehlers of west Michigan dies at 83“, Detroit Free Press, August 15, 2017.