Charles Bernard Rangel (; born June 11, 1930) is an American politician who was a U.S. Representative for districts in New York from 1971 to 2017. A member of the Democratic Party, he was the second-longest serving incumbent member of the House of Representatives at the time of his retirement, serving continuously since 1971. As its most senior member, he was also the Dean of New York’s congressional delegation. Rangel was the first African-American Chair of the influential House Ways and Means Committee. He is also a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Rangel was born in Harlem in Upper Manhattan and lives there to this day. He earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for his service in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, where he led a group of soldiers out of a deadly Chinese army encirclement during the Battle of Kunu-ri in 1950. Rangel graduated from New York University in 1957 and St. John’s University School of Law in 1960. He then worked as a private lawyer, Assistant U.S. Attorney, and legal counsel during the early-mid-1960s. He served two terms in the New York State Assembly, from 1967 to 1971, and then defeated long-time incumbent Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr. in a primary challenge on his way to being elected to the House of Representatives.
Once there, Rangel rose rapidly in the Democratic ranks, combining solidly liberal views with a pragmatic approach towards finding political and legislative compromises. His long-time concerns with battling the importation and effects of illegal drugs led to his becoming chair of the House Select Committee on Narcotics, where he helped define national policy on the issue during the 1980s. As one of Harlem’s “Gang of Four”, he also became a leader in New York City and State politics. He played a significant role in the creation of the 1995 Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation and the national Empowerment Zone Act, which helped change the economic face of Harlem and other inner-city areas. Rangel is known both for his genial manner, with an ability to win over fellow legislators, and for his blunt speaking; he has long been outspoken about his views and has been arrested several times as part of political demonstrations. He was a strong opponent of the George W. Bush administration and the Iraq War, and he put forth proposals to reinstate the draft during the 2000s.
Beginning in 2008, Rangel faced a series of personal legal issues focusing on ethics violations and allegations of failures to abide by the tax laws. The House Ethics Committee focused on whether Rangel improperly rented multiple rent-stabilized New York apartments, improperly used his office in raising money for the Rangel Center at the City College of New York, and failed to disclose rental income from his villa in the Dominican Republic. In March 2010, Rangel stepped aside as Ways and Means Chair. In November 2010, the Ethics Committee found Rangel guilty of 11 counts of violating House ethics rules, and on December 2, 2010, the full House approved a sanction of censure against him. During the 2012 and 2014 elections, Rangel faced two strong primary challenges in a now primarily Hispanic district but prevailed. He did not run for re-election in 2016 and left office in January 2017.