Frank McCloskey

Frank McCloskey
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Indiana's 8th district
In office
January 3, 1983  January 3, 1995
Preceded by H. Joel Deckard
Succeeded by John Hostettler
Mayor of Bloomington, Indiana
In office
Preceded by John H. "Jack" Hooker, Jr.
Succeeded by Tomilea Allison
Personal details
Born Francis Xavier McCloskey
(1939-06-12)June 12, 1939
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died November 2, 2003(2003-11-02) (aged 64)
Bloomington, Indiana
Resting place Arlington National Cemetery
38°52′45″N 77°04′08″W / 38.879074°N 77.069006°W / 38.879074; -77.069006Coordinates: 38°52′45″N 77°04′08″W / 38.879074°N 77.069006°W / 38.879074; -77.069006
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Roberta Ann Barker (m. 1962–2003) (his death)
Children 2
Alma mater Indiana University, A.B. 1968, J.D. 1971
Profession Lawyer, Journalist
Committees Armed Services, 1983 to 1995; Small Business, 1983 to 1985; Post Office and Civil Service, 1985 to 1995; Foreign Affairs, 1989 to 1995
Religion Roman Catholic
Military service
Service/branch United States Air Force
Years of service 1957–1961
Rank Sergeant

Francis Xavier "Frank" McCloskey (June 12, 1939 – November 2, 2003) was a six-term Democratic representative from Indiana from January 3, 1983 to January 3, 1995, widely remembered for his advocacy on behalf of Bosnian Muslims. He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and later moved to Bloomington, Indiana after receiving an undergraduate (majoring in political science) and J.D. degree from Indiana University School of Law - Bloomington. He was the Democratic nominee for a seat in the Indiana House of Representatives in 1970. Frank McCloskey worked as a reporter for the Indianapolis Star, the Bloomington Herald-Telephone, and the City News Bureau in Chicago.

Mayor of Bloomington

McCloskey was elected mayor of Bloomington in 1971, the year he graduated law school, by defeating two-term Republican incumbent John H. "Jack" Hooker, Jr., and served until his election to the 98th Congress in 1982. While mayor, he was credited with helping obtain federal funds to help improve city services and revitalize the city's downtown area. His administration also developed Bloomington Transit, the city's bus service. He was re-elected mayor in 1975 and 1979. In 1981, McCloskey was elected president of the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns.[1] Additionally, he served on a 10-member task force created by the U.S. Conference of Mayors created to study urban financial policy.

Mayor McCloskey was an alternate delegate to the 1972 Democratic National Convention.

Congressional tenure

1982 election and first term

Initially, Mayor McCloskey was an underdog in his race against two-term incumbent Republican representative Joel Deckard in Indiana's 8th Congressional District. McCloskey's campaign focused on the effects of Reaganomics, and attempted to tie the district's high unemployment rate to Deckard and President Reagan after Deckard supported Reagan on key tax cut and budget votes in the 97th Congress. Some of the district's counties were experiencing unemployment rates not seen since the Great Depression. During the campaign, McCloskey argued for deferral or elimination of a 10 percent tax cut scheduled in 1983 and for cuts in military spending. McCloskey also attacked Deckard for waffling on the nuclear freeze issue after the incumbent co-sponsored both the stronger and weaker versions of the freeze resolution. McCloskey's campaign was further boosted after Deckard was involved in a drunk driving accident shortly before the election. McCloskey significantly benefited from the support of Michael Vandeveer, the popular Democratic Mayor of Evansville, the district's largest city, and emerged the victor on election night, 52% to 48%. McCloskey thus became the sixth challenger since 1966 to unseat an incumbent in what had become known as "the Bloody Eighth."

Upon arriving in Washington, McCloskey sought a seat on the Appropriations Committee, but was rebuffed by then-Majority Leader Jim Wright, who told him first-term Members of Congress rarely obtain a seat on that committee. McCloskey instead was given a seat on the Armed Services Committee, where he served throughout his Congressional career, and gained a reputation as one of the committee's most liberal members. He was a vocal critic of Pentagon spending during his first term. Knowing he would be a target in 1984, he returned to the district often, and focused on areas of importance to his constituents, such economic development, uses for high-sulfur coal mined in the district, and farm credit. In the 1984 contest for the Democratic nomination for President, McCloskey supported Colorado Senator Gary Hart over Walter Mondale and Jesse Jackson.[2]

1984 re-election and controversial recount

After McCloskey accumulated a liberal voting record by opposing President Reagan over 80% of the time during his first year in office, Republicans recruited a twenty-eight-year-old, two-term conservative state representative Rick McIntyre to challenge McCloskey in 1984. McIntyre, however, hailed from small Lawrence County in the northeastern part of the district, and spent much of the election boosting his profile in the populous Evansville area. McCloskey, however, spent much of his first term tending politically to Evansville, and retained the support of the still popular Vandeveer. Ultimately, McCloskey ran up large margins in Evansville and Vanderburgh County.

However, President Reagan carried the district 61% to 38%. Buoyed by these strong coattails, McIntyre trailed McCloskey by only 72 votes after the initial vote count. A tabulation error in two precincts of one county, however, resulted in an overcounting of McCloskey votes, and Indiana's Secretary of State (a Republican) quickly certified McIntyre as the winner by 34 votes, without checking other counties, even though a recount in another county showed McCloskey with an overall lead of 72 votes.[3] After a recount, McIntyre was up by 418 votes,[4] but more than 4,800 ballots were not recounted for technical reasons. The Democratic-controlled House refused to seat either McIntyre or McCloskey and conducted their own recount.[3] A task force, consisting of two Democrats and one Republican, hired auditors from the U.S. General Accounting Office to do the counting. The recount dragged on for nearly four months, and McCloskey survived three Republican-sponsored floor votes to seat McIntyre. The task force instructed the auditors to ignore many of the "technicalities" that resulted in Indiana officials throwing out ballots. In the end, the House seated McCloskey on May 1, 1985 after declaring him the winner by just four votes (116,645 to 116,641). The vote, 230-195, was largely along partisan lines and in response every Republican House member momentarily marched out of the chamber in symbolic protest.

Subsequent service

99th Congress

Once sworn in for a second term, McCloskey used his position on the Armed Services Committee to prohibit job contracting at the Crane Weapons Center. Following the 1986 U.S. airstrikes on Libya, McCloskey sponsored legislation blocking the Marine Corps from buying bulldozers from a company partially owned by the Libyan government.

Meanwhile, McIntyre sought a rematch in 1986. However, he still faced a geographical disadvantage, and emotions over the bitter recount had faded. McCloskey took advantage of his incumbency and touted his work for Crane, even bringing in Les Aspin to promise the district Crane would not be closed. McCloskey was also able to leverage his incumbency into positive publicity after investigating possible PCB contamination from a Union Carbide plant on the district's border. Seeking to be more than a candidate who was robbed of victory, McIntyre unsuccessfully tried to find an issue he could capitalize on, and ended up criticizing McCloskey's tenure as mayor of Bloomington and his criticisms of the Vietnam War in the 1970s. Despite having no evidence in support of his claim, McIntyre alleged McCloskey had once smoked opium. These false allegations backfired, and without having to fight Reagan's coattails, McCloskey won the rematch by a comfortable margin, 106,662 (53%) to 93,586 (46.5%), carrying nine the district's sixteen counties, including another convincing victory in Evansville.

100th Congress

By his third term, in the 100th Congress, McCloskey had risen to chair of the Postal Personnel and Modernization subcommittee. From this position, he held hearings to determine if toxic biological agents, such as anthrax, should be banned from the U.S. Mail. After investigating the issue, and discovering such a ban could be damaging to medical research, McCloskey adopted a position of strict enforcement of the existing regulations. McCloskey, from his position on the Armed Services Committee, played a high-profile role in the battle over President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, and argued SDI was a violation of the 1972 U.S./Soviet ABM Treaty. Following a night-time collision of two military helicopters in neighboring Fort Campbell, Kentucky, McCloskey also launched a probe into military flight accidents linked to the use of night vision goggles. McCloskey was re-elected with 62% of the vote, his highest percentage, in 1988 against little-known newspaper publisher John L. Meyers, who shared a similar name to neighboring Congressman John T. Meyers. Despite his liberal voting record, McCloskey's attention to local issues and efforts to bring money back to the district earned him the support of both Evansville daily newspapers in the 1988 campaign.

101st Congress

In the 101st Congress McCloskey authored a bill enacted requiring a disclaimer on any non-governmental mailings that use an emblem or other identifying symbol to mislead consumers into believing the mailing is a government document. In addition to barring these deceptive mailings, McCloskey sponsored legislation, also enacted, requiring child-proof containers for any potentially harmful drugs and household products sent through the mail. McCloskey moderated his military spending views somewhat in his fourth term, voting against halting production of the B-2 stealth bomber and opposing efforts to eliminate the development of the V-22 Osprey helicopter. Not uncoincidently, the hybrid airplane-helicopter's engines were built in Indiana.

Facing Evansville coal-mining executive Richard Mourdock in the 1990 election, McCloskey was reelected with 55% of the vote. Mourdock captalized on an anti-incumbent trend and criticized McCloskey for his votes for a Congressional pay raise and tax increases.

102nd Congress

In the 102nd Congress McCloskey opposed the use of force against Iraq in 1991. However, it was at this time when McCloskey first became a leader in the effort to take strong action, including military intervention, in the Balkans. McCloskey would maintain a passion and interest in the region for the remainder of his life. McCloskey was critical of President George H.W. Bush's "hands-off" approach to the conflict, and later voiced similar criticisms of President Clinton's reluctance to engage in a solution.

1992 saw McCloskey's first congressional election in which his hometown of Bloomington was completely within the boundaries of the 8th District. McCloskey faced a rematch with Mourdock. By this time, the anti-incumbent sentiment in the nation was even stronger, but McCloskey retained his seat with 53% of the vote. McCloskey's lower 1992 margin, coming at the same time that Bill Clinton became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the 8th District since 1964 and then-Governor Evan Bayh carried all of the district's counties in his re-election bid, was partly attributed to McCloskey's 65 overdrafts at the House bank. McCloskey's efforts to save jobs at the district's Crane Naval Surface Weapons Warfare Center helped secure his re-election.

1994 election defeat

McCloskey was one of thirty-four Democratic incumbents defeated during the 1994 Republican Revolution. McCloskey lost to Republican John Hostettler, a then little-known Evansville engineer who claimed the Republican nomination on the strength of strong support from area churches, 48% to 52%. McCloskey narrowly lost Martin county, home to the Crane NSW center he had spent his Congressional career fighting to keep open. During the 103rd Congress, McCloskey supported the assault weapons ban, a vote which undermined his blue-collar labor and rural support. Hostettler sought to tie McCloskey to Clinton, referring to the Congressman as "Frank McClinton." Unlike in previous elections, where he ran up large margins, he only carried Vanderburgh County by a very small margin. In the end, McCloskey's years of devotion and advocacy on behalf of his district could not overcome his liberal voting record, accumulated over six terms, the unpopularity of President Clinton, and the voters' tiring of long-time Democratic control of Congress.

Election history

Year Office Election Subject Party Votes Pct Opponent Party Votes Pct
1994 Congress, 8th district General Frank McCloskey (Inc.) Democratic 84,857 47.6% John Hostettler Republican 93,529 52.4%
1992 Congress, 8th district General Frank McCloskey (Inc.) Democratic 125,244 53.0% Richard Mourdock Republican 108,054 45.7%
1990 Congress, 8th district General Frank McCloskey (Inc.) Democratic 97,465 54.7% Richard Mourdock Republican 80,645 45.3%
1988 Congress, 8th district General Frank McCloskey (Inc.) Democratic 141,355 61.8% John L. Myers Republican 87,321 38.2%
1986 Congress, 8th district General Frank McCloskey (Inc.) Democratic 106,662 53.3% Rick McIntyre Republican 93,586 46.7%
1984 Congress, 8th district General Frank McCloskey (Inc.) Democratic 116,645 50.0% Rick McIntyre Republican 116,641 50.0%
1982 Congress, 8th district General Frank McCloskey Democratic 100,592 51.7% H. Joel Deckard (Inc.) Republican 94,127 48.3%

Efforts to bring peace to the Balkans

While on a fact-finding mission to Croatia during the Croatian War of Independence, McCloskey was one of the first outsiders to arrive in the Croatian village of Voćin within hours after the Voćin massacre in 1991. After witnessing the atrocities in Voćin (McCloskey was the first to use the word genocide to describe the activities in the disintegrating Yugoslavia), McCloskey made the issue of bringing peace to the Balkans his primary issue, even though his stance on the war in the Balkans put him at odds with members of his own party, including the Clinton White House.

On a Sunday morning in December 1991, McCloskey got into a car and drove to Voćin and surrounding villages, where Vojislav Seselj's withdrawing Chetniks had murdered 53 people, most of them elderly men and women . McCloskey had a close look at every mangled body. Some of them had been shot in head, others had been burned to death, and at least one had been dismembered with a chainsaw. The next morning McCloskey held a press conference at the Hotel Intercontinental in Zagreb. There were only a small number of American reporters, and about the only coverage of note was in USA Today. Mark Dalmish, the CNN reporter in Zagreb refused to attend McCloskey’s press conference because he didn’t want to give the Congressman a "soapbox."[5] But the story was big in Europe, especially in Germany. During the press conference McCloskey called the massacre at Voćin, and all the others that had happened in Croatia, genocide. He was the first to put it in that context and like a lot of other things McCloskey said and did, the reference to genocide caused considerable consternation at the State Department. In fact, State did not decide to call these murders genocide until much later, after the deaths of a quarter million people in three countries.

It was after Voćin that McCloskey became an outspoken critic of the Serbian campaign and of his colleagues in Washington who continued to insist the conflict in Croatia was only a "civil war", and something in which the U.S. had no business interfering. McCloskey went immediately to Belgrade and accused Slobodan Milosevic of war crimes to his face. After that he went back to Washington, contacting State Department officials at the highest levels to which he had access. He gave Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger a complete briefing, and wondered why nothing was done. When the same Serbian units that conducted the massacres in Croatia began to spread their grim work around Bosnia-Herzegovina, McCloskey went to have a look for himself.

In 1992, after returning from his first trip to Mostar in Bosnia as a guest of the Croatian American Association, McCloskey held a press conference at the Foreign Press Bureau at Hotel Split. In the presence of a State Department representative, a U.S. Marine Corps officer, and members of the international press corps, McCloskey called for U.S. led NATO air strikes against Serbian positions in Bosnia-Herzegovina as a way of ending the war.

When it became clear to him that support would not be forthcoming from either his party or Administration leaders, McCloskey broke with the mainstream Democratic party and made history by looking Warren Christopher in the eye during a hearing on the Balkans and demanding the Secretary of State's resignation for his conduct of policy toward Bosnia-Herzegovina.

In December 1993, at the request of Gojko Susak, then Croatian Minister of Defense, McCloskey went to Geneva and helped broker an uneasy peace between Croats and Muslims fighting each other in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Once again, McCloskey was the first, but this time the State Department followed his lead and the peace became permanent. Sadly, when the Washington Agreement was actually signed between Croats and Muslims in 1994, McCloskey was not invited. Undaunted, he elbowed his way into the Old Executive Office Building to witness the ceremony, and said afterwards President Clinton had grudgingly acknowledged his presence.

Part of the reason for his distance from his fellow Democrat may have had to do with the fact that McCloskey had handed President Clinton his very first foreign policy defeat. But that particular battle was the beginning of a movement in Congress that transformed the British-backed Clinton policy toward the Balkans. By continually drawing attention to "ethnic cleansing" in the villages and towns of ex-Yugoslavia, McCloskey managed to gain the support of a majority of Democrats who, on every issue but this one, remained loyal to the Administration's position on non-intervention.

McCloskey brokered a broad coalition of Democrats and Republicans who had listened to his daily calls from the floor of the U.S. House of representatives to stop the genocide. They backed legislation called the McCloskey-Gilman amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1995 (HR 4301, 104th Congress), which was intended to lift the arms embargo first against Bosnia and then Croatia. Despite tough opposition, the McCloskey-Gilman amendment passed the House of Representatives 244-178 on June 9, 1994. In the U.S. Senate, a similar bill was sponsored by Bob Dole and Joe Lieberman. It was defeated by a 50-50 vote on July 1, 1994 (Senate Amendment 1851 to S. 2182, 104th Congress). In 1995, after McCloskey was out of Congress, both houses of the 105th Congress passed a bill to lift the U.S. arms embargo on Bosnia by veto-proof, two-thirds majorities. President Clinton did veto the legislation in August 1995 while Congress was out of session. By the time Congress had returned, Clinton had launched a diplomatic initiative that would result in the Dayton Peace Accords.

During his tenure in Congress, McCloskey made many trips to Bosnia, and spent his post-Congressional years working to bring peace and stability to Bosnia and the Balkans. Samantha Power recounted these efforts in her 2002 book, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide .

Life after Congress

Following his 1994 defeat, McCloskey was elected chair of the Monroe County Democratic Party. In addition to his work on achieving peace in the Balkans, he was named director of Kosovo programs for the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs in 2002.

McCloskey Fellowship

Indiana University's Russian and East European Institute and the NDI announced an endowment at Indiana University in McCloskey's honor in 2005.[6] The McCloskey Fellowship brings one scholar every year from the Balkans to Indiana University and Washington, D.C. to conduct academic research, or is awarded to one Indiana University student whose work focuses on the Balkans or residents of the Balkan region.[7]


Rep. McCloskey died in Bloomington on November 2, 2003 following a year-long battle with bladder cancer. As a veteran of the United States Air Force (1957 to 1961), McCloskey's cremated remains were interred at Arlington National Cemetery. Rep. McCloskey and his wife, Roberta, were married for over 41 years and had two children — Helen and Mark. The United States Post Office in Bloomington is now named after Rep. McCloskey, who served on the Post Office and Civil Service Committee in the House.[8] A part of Indiana Highway 45 from Bloomington heading west is also named for McCloskey. In Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina, one of the new bridges over river Miljacka is named as "The bridge of congressman McCloskey" in honour of his deeds and help to the country during the wars in Balkans. McCloskey's widow Roberta died from cancer on February 2, 2005 at the age of 61 in Bloomington .


  1. Indiana Association of Cities and Towns
  2. Fellow 'New Generation' Officeholders Give Hart Chilly Reception, Washington Post, May 3, 1984
  3. 1 2 "The Cook Political Report". Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  4. Ap (8 February 1985). "House Refuses to Seat Republican of Indiana". Retrieved 9 September 2016 via
  5. "Chapter 4: What Happened in Vocin". Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  6. "McCloskeys' legacy to continue through research fund being established at IU: IU News Room: Indiana University". Retrieved 9 September 2016. horizontal tab character in |title= at position 79 (help)
  7. Indiana University Russian and East European Institute, Information for Donors
  8. Public Law 108-151, 108th Congress
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
H. Joel Deckard
United States Representative for the 8th District of Indiana
Succeeded by
John Hostettler
Political offices
Preceded by
John H. "Jack" Hooker, Jr.
Mayor of Bloomington, Indiana
1972 – 1983
Succeeded by
Tomilea Allison

 This article incorporates public domain material from the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress website

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