Charlton Heston: A Legendary American
With the recent passing of Charlton Heston, America has lost a legend. He was beloved for his portrayal of such epic figures as Michelangelo, Andrew Jackson, John the Baptist, Mark Antony, and El Cid and won the 1959 Best Actor Oscar for the lead character in "Ben-Hur."
For many, Charlton Heston is best known in the great American TV tradition that takes place each Easter: watching Charlton Heston play Moses in "The Ten Commandments" and the title role in "Ben Hur." The epic storytelling of these films, and in particular the regal and dignified acting of Heston, brought the Bible and its characters into homes of Americans everywhere, many of which might have limited experience with or knowledge of Christianity.
But Heston was much more than a screen legend, he was a legendary leader. Although today celebrities espouse their political views on a daily basis, in the 1950s and 1960s, Charlton Heston was the George Washington of Hollywood's political scene. After serving in the Army Air Forces during World War II as a radio-gunner stationed in Alaska's Aleutian Islands, Heston was one of a handful of Hollywood actors to speak openly against racism and in support of civil rights. He campaigned for President John F. Kennedy, rallied with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1963 civil rights march in Washington, DC, and protested the showing of his film at a segregated movie theater in Oklahoma City. He was also instrumental in helping Ronald Reagan integrate the Screen Actors' Guild, and succeeded him as President of the Guild.
Later in life, as President of the National Rifle Association, Heston was a stalwart defender of our Second Amendment right to bear arms and an active and effective promoter of wildlife management through hunting.
This bold leadership is what made him such a rare figure and a legendary American. Where most would have been content to be celebrated by throngs of fans as a movie icon, Heston pressed on and encouraged others to create meaningful change in the world. Regardless of the role, he was larger than life both on and off the screen. And he was as courageous in his life as the characters he portrayed on film.
To honor the legacy of his leadership and patriotism, I cosponsored a House Resolution honoring the life, achievements, and contributions of Charlton Heston and extending our Nation's deepest sympathies to his family for the loss of such a great man, husband, and father. Charlton Heston was a legendary man whose lifelong leadership has inspired generations of Americans to take action and let their voices be heard.