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Eulogies Delivered in Congress

My father, Tom Vail (Senior), was a valued professional staff member of the US Congress for 22 years.  Upon his death in 1973, while still holding the position of Chief Counsel for the Senate Finance Committee, 25 Senators and 9 Congressmen made statements on the Floor, memorializing him and his contributions to our Nation.

The following are excerpts from Eulogies delivered on the Floor of the US Senate, and permanently recorded in the official record of proceedings of the US Senate.  Along with each excerpt is a picture of the actual page from a 32 page collection of the full remarks, published by the US Government Printing Office in 1973.  In all, Eulogies from 27 Senators and 13 Congressmen.

Senator Mike Mansfield (D) of Montana:  “Those of us who knew Tom, . . . had a great admiration . . . for his integrity, his intelligence, and his sense of fairness.”

“Chairman of the Committee on Finance is . . . visiting at his home and he left to go there as soon as he heard what had happened.”

Senator Carl Curtis (R) of Nebraska:  “Tom Vail was a very faithful public servant.”

Senator Lloyd Bentsen (D) of Texas:  “Tom’s service with the Committee was marked not only by his professional capabilities but also by his human qualities and concern for others.”

Senator Herman Talmadge (D) of Georgia:  “Much will be said . . . about Mr. Vail’s contributions in the development of legislation involving billions of tax dollars and affecting the welfare of millions of Americans.  Much will be said about Mr. Vail’s conscientious efforts to protect the Public Treasury and his heartfelt concern for the needy and the disadvantaged.”

“Tom Vail was my friend.  He was the most capable and most dedicated public servant I have known.”

Senator William Fulbright (D) of Arkansas:  “[Tom Vail] dedicated himself to the service of Congress and the American public.”

“He was truly and outstanding man and served well this Senate.”

Senator Alan Bible (D) of Nevada:  “Mr. Vail stood on the very highest rung of the ladder as far as professional competence and service to the Senate and the public.”

“His time and counsel were sought from every quarter.”

Senator Alan Bible (D) of Nevada: “Small businessmen all over the county owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Vail.”

Senator Paul Fannin (R) of Arizona:  “He was held in the highest of esteem by the minority as well as the majority members of the Finance Committee.”

“We relied fully and confidently on his guidance regardless of our political philosophy or party affiliation.”

Senator William Roth (R) of Delaware:  “[Tom Vail] earned the respect and confidence of Senators from both sides of the aisle.”

Senator William Roth (R) of Delaware: “Tom stood for, and achieved, the highest standards of nonpartisan ethics in his many years of service to the Committee and to the Senate as a whole.”

Senator John Williams (R) of Delaware:  “I never knew a more dedicated public servant.”

Senator Walter Mondale (D) of Minnesota:  “Even though Tom was seriously ill and in the hospital for much of this year, the Committee staff continued to maintain the high professional standards that he set.”

Senator Clifford Hansen (R) of Wyoming:  “His knowledge and professional competence amazed me.”

Senator Russell Long (D) of Louisiana:  “Tom Vail was the most gifted and dedicated public servant I have encountered in my 25 years as a Member of the Senate.”

Senator Russell Long (D) of Louisiana:  “Whether the subject was trade legislation, tax policy, medicare, or social security, welfare reform, the public debt, or even questions concerning the financing of political campaigns, Tom Vail possessed not only a tremendous reservoir of knowledge, but also an extraordinary ability to present policy issues for decision.”

Senator Russell Long (D) of Louisiana:  “Tom Vail elicited the best in others.  He was a leader, who led through personal example.”

“Tom was a man of the highest moral character and his personal and professional integrity were without question.”

Senator Russell Long (D) of Louisiana:  “Tom Vail’s recognized talents caused him to be sought after throughout private industry.  He declined numerous offers of attractive positions in the private sector because he felt so strongly about the contributions he could make with the Finance Committee and the Congress for the general welfare of the country.”

Senator Harry Byrd (D) of Virginia:  “Tom Vail was . . . one of the finest and ablest and one of the most dedicated public servants that our country has had.”

Senator Harry Byrd (D) of Virginia:  “The Finance Committee today, as a result of the leadership of Tom Vail, has an unusually fine professional staff.”

Senator Bob Dole (R) of Kansas:  “Mr. Vail was regarded as one of the most knowledgeable and conscientious individuals on Capitol Hill.”

Senator Bob Dole (R) of Kansas:  “Tom Vail stood out as an exceptional individual.”

Senator Bob Packwood (R) of Oregon:  “Yesterday, as I prepared to join a hearing being conducted by a subcommittee of the Committee on Finance, I was told that Tom Vail had succumbed to cancer.”

“As I began to turn to leave, assuming the session had been postponed, I was told that the hearing was to continue.  ‘That’s the way Tom would want it,’ someone said.  In retrospect, I would have to agree.  For the work of the committee, the Senate, and the Nation he loved so much, and to which he devoted his life’s work, to continue.”

Senator Norris Cotton (R) of New Hampshire:  “The death of [Tom] Vail this week was a special loss to every person associated with the US Senate, for he was one of those true professionals who are responsible for bearing so much of the load.”

[Tom] Vail handled these duties with a combination of ability, integrity, and understanding that inspired our highest respect.”

Senator Robert Griffin (R) of Michigan:  “He filled one of the most demanding positions on Capitol Hill with unfailing grace, outstanding competence, and unquestioned integrity.”

“Even though he worked long and hard for the Committee on Finance, he was never too busy to assist other Senators and other staff members.  He always did so most cheerfully.”

Senator Abraham Ribicoff (D) of Connecticut:  “The Senate and the Nation have lost a dedicated public servant.”

“Tom was a top notch tax lawyer.”

Senator Abraham Ribicoff (D) of Connecticut:  “He exemplified the best qualities in public service.  He was a man of the highest moral character and his personal and professional integrity were without question.”

“The greatest legacy a man leaves to his fellow man is that of a shining example.  Truly Tom Vail leaves that with all of us.”

Senator Lawton Chiles (D) of Florida:  “Tom was an outstanding public servant and gave his tremendous talents their full exercise on the Finance Committee.”

“I found him to be a man of unusual dedication to his work with a . . . keen mind that made him invaluable to the Senate.”

“Others . . . in the Senate . . . came to depend upon his excellent judgement.”

Senator Ted Kennedy (D) of Massachusetts:  “There has been no Senate staff member whose arrival on the Senate Floor more clearly signaled the beginning of debate on major national legislation that the arrival of Tom Vail.”

“Tom’s skillful assistance and expert guidance contributed immensely to the Senate’s understanding and development of the issues.”

“I was always impressed not only with Tom’s mastery of the almost endless complexity of the Bills he handled, but also with his uncommon ability to present the issues clearly and fairly.”

Senator Glenn Beall (R) of Maryland:  “Tom Vail was one of those energetic and unique individuals whose creative lives do not make the headlines.  Yet, his contributions to legislation and to the public good are legion.”

“Tom Vail, no matter how hectic his day or how pressed he was with Committee business, always had time to advise and counsel other Senators and even to respond to routine questions by our staffs.”

“Tom has set a standard of excellence that will continue to inspire the many other capable staff people that the Hill is fortunate to have.”

Senator Frank Church (D) of Idaho:  “Tom was an extraordinary individual in every sense of the word.”

“Our entire Nation shall sorely miss his counsel and wisdom.  Public servants of his caliber and dedication are always difficult to replace.”

Senator Wallace Bennet (R) of Utah:  “Tom had to be both the chief staff executive and administrator and also . . . a technical expert in all of the fields covered by the Committee” [taxes, social security and tariffs].

Senator James Allen (D) of Alabama:  “This man of tremendous ability who expended his energies and talents in dedication to his Nation throughout his entire professional career.”

“For more than two decades, Tom Vail was directly included in almost every piece of tax and revenue legislation passed by the Congress of the United States.”

“Tom no doubt could have engaged in a lucrative law practice, but he chose to serve his Nation as a valued employee of the US Senate.”

Senator Alan Cranston (D) of California:  “[Tom Vail] helped to shape some of the most important legislation in the Congress – legislation that has touched the lives of all Americans.  He was respected throughout the Congress for his great ability, integrity, and keen mind.”

Senator Jocob Javits (R) of New York:  “[Tom Vail’s] vast understanding of the intricacies of complicated tax matters, together with administrative ability . . . was instrumental in drafting and guiding the crucial tax legislation of the 1960’s though the Congress.”

Congressman Wilbur Mills (D) of Arkansas:  “Tom Vail participated in the drafting of some of the most far-reaching and important economic measures enacted in the history of this country.  He was a brilliant and erudite lawyer, and without question, one of the foremost experts in the United States on taxation, tariffs, and Social Security legislation.”

John Martin, Chief Counsel, House Ways and Means Committee:  “I know of no finer or more courageous person than Tom Vail, and his family can always look with great pride toward his professional accomplishments, and . . . the fact that he made, over the years, significant contributions to the public interest while serving as a staff member in the field of taxes, tariffs, and Security legislation.”

Congressman Jackson Betts (R) of Ohio:  “[Tom Vail’s] contributions to tax legislation were enormous and were always for the best interests of the Country.”


Congressman Eugene Keogh (D) of New York:  “[Tom Vail] was truly a dedicated public servant and brought to his difficult duties an experience and expertise that were of tremendous help to those members of the House and Senate with whom he worked.  His objective and studied presentation of the intricate matters coming before the Legislature and particularly the conferees on technically difficult legislation was always a great assistance in reaching a fair and judicious conclusion.”


Congressman John Byrnes (R) of Wisconsin:  “[Tom Vail] was truly a great servant of the Senate, the Finance Committee and the public interest.”


Congressman Frank Ikard (D) of Texas:  “Tom Vail achieved a measure of integrity and accomplishment seldom attained in a full life span.  He exemplified the finest qualities in public service and in his chosen profession in the law.  He was never too important to be helpful, too hurried to be patient, nor too burdened to be considerate in his relations with other people.  His perceptive counsel provided a major contribution to the cause of good government.”


Senator Allen Frear (D) of Delaware:  “He never found a request too small or task too great to lend his unique ability.  To me, Tom was a gentleman of virtuous stature, devoted to duty, humble and courageous.”


Congressman Al Ullman (D) of Oregon:  “Tom was among the best in a group whose professional competence and deep knowledge is widely admired.  He performed a demanding task with great diligence, understanding and integrity.”

“When I sought counsel from him, he was always unfailingly courteous, prompt and knowledgeable.  His tact and grace never left him, no matter how tedious the problem or how great the pressure.”

“Tom Vail will not be forgotten; he will be sorely missed.”

Congressman Herman Schneebeli (R) of Pennsylvania:  “In terms of accomplishments, personal and professional, [Tom Vail’s life] was full and rich.  Few men who have lived twice as long have achieved half as much.”

Congressman Herman Schneebeli (R) of Pennsylvania:  “Mr. Vail contributed importantly to the development of legislation which has improved the lives of many millions of Americans.  Our Nation’s tax, trade, social security, medicare and medicaid laws are better statues because of him.”

“At critical points in the course of such measures through the congressional process, he was often a calm force in a legislative storm.”

Congressman Martha Griffiths (D) of Michigan:  “[Tom Vail’s] untimely passing is a loss . . . to the people of this Nation.  Those of us who had an opportunity to know and work with him . . . had the greatest respect for his integrity and intelligence.  His brilliance was unsurpassed, particularly in the complicated field of taxation.”

Congressman Joel Broyhill (R) of Virginia:  ”Tom Vail was a proud and competent member of our congressional family.  He served with distinction as a staff member.”

Congressman James Burke (D) of Massachusetts:  “A driving and energetic personality, Tom continually strove to live life to its fullest and enrich the lives of all those with whom he worked or came in contact.”

”Tom was not only a good administrator, not only a man with in-depth knowledge of the complex subject matters . . . but a skilled diplomat who worked well with the strong personalities often found in congressional committees.”

Congressman James Burke (D) of Massachusetts:  “Men like Tom Vail are rare among men, and Tom was the rarest of them all.  Knowing full well the extent of his illness, Tom’s order of priorities remained unchanged.  His sense of obligation to his committee remained uppermost in his mind, and striving against the inevitable, he continued to follow committee developments up to the very end.”

“ ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but rather what can you do for your country.’  Tom Vail was the living embodiment of this noble ideal.”

Congresswoman Lindy Boggs (D) of Louisiana:  “[Tom Vail’s] abilities and integrity were known throughout the Congress, and all who called upon him knew his assistance would be expert and enthusiastic.”

“Tom Vail’s passing is a personal loss and a loss to our country.”

Congressman Charles Vanik (D) of Ohio:  “Tom Vail . . . was a knowledgeable and dedicated public servant.  With a firm grasp on the complexities of tax policy, his professional competence was unparalleled.”

“Perhaps the finest tribute to the dedication of Tom Vail to the highest ideals of public service is the professional staff of the Senate Finance Committee. . . It was through the tireless efforts of Tom Vail that the Senate Finance Committee came to assemble what is generally regarded as one of the most capable staffs in the Congress.”

Congressman Harold Collier (R) of Illinois:  “Mr. Vail’s advice and counsel did much to improve the tax, trade, medicare, social security, and welfare laws of our Nation.  His professional competence and ability to distill and present complex and technical details of complicated legislation in a calm and effective manner were of immeasurable importance.”