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Remembering Ex-Rep. Greg Carman

Remembering Ex-Rep. Greg Carman

By Monday, 13 April 2020 10:20 AM Current | Bio | Archive

As much as anyone, Greg Carman embodied Ronald Reagan’s axiom that “There are second acts in life.”

As a lawyer and town councilman in his native Oyster Bay, New York, Carman loved politics. When Reagan swept the nation in the 1980 presidential election, Carman unseated a three-term Democratic congressman. 

Carman would be a spirited supporter of the 40th president’s economic and foreign policy agenda. After his death on April 5 at age 83, Carman’s family revealed that since his childhood, the New Yorker dreamed of becoming president himself someday.  As his hero and fellow Oyster Bay Republican Theodore Roosevelt would say of the presidency before he achieved it, “I must be dreaming of it!”

It was not to be. With Democrats wielding the redistricting knife in 1981, Carman’s Long Island district was merged with that of neighboring freshman Republican Rep. John LeBoutillier.  Nassau County Republican boss Joe Margiotta made it clear he preferred LeBoutillier, but set out to maneuver Carman into a federal judgeship.

“Greg was a nice fellow,” Leboutillier told Newsmax, recalling how his fellow Republican lawmaker graciously acquiesced to him in the new “hybrid” district (whose lines were not completed until after Labor Day of 1982; this left Leboutillier eight weeks in which to campaign in a district with considerably new turf and where he eventually lost).

As for Carman, the efforts of then-Sen. Al D’Amato, R-NY, and the late Rep. Norm Lent (dean of the Nassau County House delegation), helped him secure an appointment by Reagan to the U.S. Court of International Trade.

Relatively little-known, the court on which Carman served and rose to become chief judge reviews administrative actions dealing with imports.  Often the rulings involved world politics and major cash settlements.

“He was a giant on that court, dealing with one of the most esoteric disciplines in the law,” said former Rep. John Napier, R-S.C., who served with Carman in Congress and later served on the U.S. Court of Claims, “But he also sat on any number of federal courts as a visiting judge and often by designation on the Second Circuit.  The Court of International Trade sat without a jury, as did the Appellate Court.  He loved to sit on the District Courts with jury trials.”

Politics was in Carman’s blood. His family ancestry's dates back to the 16th Century in New York and one ancestor negotiated Long Island’s first real estate deal between the settlers and American Indians.

After graduation from St. Lawrence University and earning a law degree from St. John’s University while in the U.S. Army, the young Lt. Carman served on the Judge Advocate’s staff at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Upon his discharge, Carman practiced law with his father and brother. He also became active in the Young Republicans and, in 1972, he was appointed to the Town Board of Oyster Bay.

Eight years later, he took on Democratic Rep. Jerome Ambro in a contest the “New York Times” called “heated.” Carman and Ambro had some fierce debates in which they demonstrated sharp differences on most issues.  At one point on a radio debate, Carman admonished his opponent for smoking.  Ambro shot back: “I only took two puffs out of deference to your frail health.”

Carman won with 53 percent of the vote.

“Greg will be remembered as a great member of the ‘class of 1980’ that helped Ronald Reagan changed the country’s course from excessive domestic spending to defense spending that allowed the initiation of ‘Star Wars’ and the fall of Communism,” said John Napier, “The country has lost a true patriot and a disciplined judge, and I have lost a close friend.” 

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As much as anyone, Greg Carman embodied Ronald Reagan’s axiom that “There are second acts in life.”
greg carman ronald reagan court of international trade
Monday, 13 April 2020 10:20 AM
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