Benjamin "Ben" Erdreich (born December 9, 1938) is a former United States congressman from Alabama.

Early life

Erdreich was born in Birmingham, Alabama to an upper-middle-class family. He attended Yale University, graduating in 1960. He served as editor of the Alabama Law Review while attending the University of Alabama law school, graduating in 1963. After law school, he spent two years in the United States Army before setting up a private law practice.[1] Between 1970 and 1974, Erdreich served one term as a Democrat in the Alabama House of Representatives. He then was elected as a Jefferson County Commissioner, serving until 1982.

Congressional career

In 1982, he was elected to Congress from the Birmingham-based 6th District, defeating one-term Republican incumbent Albert Smith, Jr.—to date, the last time a Democratic challenger has defeated a Republican congressman in Alabama. Erdreich was the first Democrat to represent the 6th since 1965; it had been one of five districts to fall to the Republicans during Barry Goldwater's sweep of the state in that year's presidential election. Erdreich was re-elected four times, rarely facing serious opposition. Erdreich is one of a small number of Jewish politicians to be elected to federal office in the Deep South.

In 1992, however, Erdreich's district was significantly redrawn as a result of a United States Department of Justice directive to create a majority-black district. The state legislature failed to act, and a federal court drew a map of its own that shifted most of Birmingham's black residents to the 7th District. They were replaced with some of the whiter and wealthier areas of Shelby and Tuscaloosa counties—areas that Erdreich had never represented. Erdreich now found himself in one of the most Republican districts in the nation, with a population that was almost 97 percent white. By comparison, his old district was approximately 35 percent black. Despite outspending his opponent, state Republican Party chairman Spencer Bachus, almost 2 to 1, Erdreich could not overcome the new partisan lean of the district and lost by 7 percentage points. In the same election, George H. W. Bush prevailed over challenger Bill Clinton in the district by about 74 percent to 26 percent, proving just how Republican this reconfigured district was. Since Erdreich's defeat, no Democratic candidate in the district has crossed the 30 percent mark.

Erdreich was known for his bipartisan work in Congress, and co-sponsored several hundred bills during his five terms. Erdreich was the lead sponsor of four bills that were signed by the president and enacted into law:

The Hugo L. Black United States Courthouse in Birmingham, Alabama
  • In 1987, H.R. 614, A bill to designate the new United States courthouse in Birmingham, Alabama, as the "Hugo L. Black United States Courthouse" (co-sponsored by the entire Alabama congressional delegation).
  • In 1990, H.R. 3691, to redesignate the Federal building located at 1800 5th Avenue, North in Birmingham, Alabama, as the "Robert S. Vance Federal Building" (co-sponsored by the entire Alabama congressional delegation and several others).
  • In 1990, H.R. 1243, The Department of Energy Metal Casting Competitiveness Research Act of 1990, co-sponsored by the entire Alabama congressional delegation and several others.
  • In 1992, H.R.4398, The Federal Reserve Bank Branch Modernization Act, with no co-sponsors.

Recent life and career

Erdreich is currently involved with property development in Birmingham, concentrating on central-city projects.