Otis Grey Pike, a former congressman from New York’s First District on Long Island for 18 years and a former chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, died on January 20 at the age of 92, and was recalled fondly by his successor, the current Democratic congressman from NY’s First District, Rep. Timothy Bishop, in a speech on the House floor.
“In 1975, Otis became the Chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence,” recalled Bishop. “While serving in this role, he took on the intelligence community in a way Congress had not previously attempted. He led the first Congressional investigation into the Central Intelligence Agency, which resulted in a report calling for greater Congressional oversight of intelligence operations. After being blocked from public disclosure by the full House of Representatives, the report was leaked by the media.”
Born on August 31, 1921, in Riverhead, NY, Pike was orphaned at a young age and was subsequently raised by two sisters and an aunt. Overcoming his early losses, he finished his primary and secondary education in the Riverhead public schools and enrolled at Princeton University.
In 1942, he put his studies on hold to serve our country as a United States Marine. During World War Two, he was a fighter pilot who flew 120 missions and won five air medals, Bishop continued.
After the war Pike returned to his studies, ultimately graduating from Columbia Law School in 1948. Upon completing law school, he returned to Riverhead, where he began practicing law and became a justice of the peace in his home town in 1954.
Pike decided to run for Congress in 1958, having become fascinated with politics as a teenager. Although his first bid was unsuccessful, he was elected to the House as a Democrat in 1960. “When voters send someone to Congress, they expect that person to be their advocate,” said Bishop, during his remarks on January 27. “And an advocate is exactly what the residents of New York’s First Congressional District got when they sent Otis Pike to Washington.”
Pike first gained national attention for his advocacy in 1967, when he spoke out about the military spending too much for small parts that he believed could be purchased at greatly reduced rates. The awareness he raised helped lead to changes in the Pentagon’s purchasing procedures. In 1969, Pike led a
subcommittee investigation into North Korea’s seizure of the Pueblo, a United States intelligence ship.
“Otis was well-liked, admired and respected in Congress, and he was also known for his love of bowties,” Bishop continued. “While on the campaign trail, he had often carried a banjo and ukulele to create songs about opponents’ public policy issues. Upon his retirement from the House, he devoted greater time to writing and became a syndicated columnist for Newhouse Newspapers, a post he held for twenty years.
“Mr. Speaker, Congressman Pike was a dedicated and highly effective public servant who made an indelible impression on Congress and on New York’s first district. He enjoyed an impeccable reputation as one of Long Island’s longest serving representatives in Congress and will always be remembered as one whose career should serve as a model for all who engage in public service,” concluded Bishop.