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Joseph Lyman (Joe) Fisher (January 11, 1914 – February 19, 1992) was a member of the United States House of Representatives from Virginia from 1975 to 1981 and a founder of Resources for the Future. A Democrat and lifelong Unitarian, Fisher was an active volunteer lay leader in the Unitarian Universalist Association, serving on the UUA's Board of Trustees and as moderator (the highest volunteer position in the UUA) from 1964 until 1977.

Joe Fisher
Joseph L. Fisher.jpg
3rd Virginia Secretary of Human Resources
In office
January 16, 1982 – January 18, 1986
GovernorChuck Robb
Preceded byJean L. Harris
Succeeded byEva S. Hardy
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 10th district
In office
January 3, 1975 – January 3, 1981
Preceded byJoel Broyhill
Succeeded byFrank Wolf
Personal details
Born(1914-01-11)January 11, 1914
Pawtucket, Rhode Island
DiedFebruary 19, 1992(1992-02-19) (aged 78)
Arlington, Virginia
Political partyDemocratic
Alma materBowdoin College
Harvard University
George Washington University

Private lifeEdit

Fisher was born in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. He attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, and graduated in 1935 with an economic degree. He met Margaret "Peggy" Winslow on a blind date, in her home town, Indianapolis, on January 1, 1941. She was a sophomore at Wellesley College; he had begun graduate studies in economics at Harvard University. It was a whirlwind romance: in April Fisher proposed; a little more than a year later, on June 27, 1942, they were married. They had 3 daughters and 4 sons.

Professional careerEdit

After several years working at an accounting firm, Fisher was hired by the National Resource Planning Board in 1939. He was promoted to become an economist for the U.S. Department of State in 1942. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1943 to serve in World War II. Fisher returned to the United States once war ended and earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University. He was then hired by the Council of Economic Advisors and, after furthering his education at George Washington University, became the senior economist at this organization in 1951. In 1953, Fisher left to found a non-profit think tank known as Resources for the Future, Inc.

In 1974, Fisher was elected to Congress from Virginia's 10th congressional district. He served for three terms until his defeat at the hands of Republican Frank Wolf in November 1980. He went on to establish the Economic Policy Department at The Wilderness Society, a U.S. non-governmental organization, bringing a first-of-its-kind professional scientific focus to the wildland conservation community. Afterward, Fisher was appointed Virginia Secretary of Human Resources in 1982 and then became an economics professor at George Mason University in 1986.


In 1985 Fisher had back pain which was diagnosed as bone cancer and went into remission after treatments, but the cancer returned in early 1991. He died on February 19, 1992, in Arlington, Virginia, and his ashes where buried at Arlington National Cemetery beside two 2-star generals.


  • United States Congress. "Joseph L. Fisher (id: F000151)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  • Fox, Stephen. "We Want No Straddlers." Wilderness 48.167 (1984): 5-19.

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