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Lester Lionel Wolff (born January 4, 1919) is a retired American politician and former Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives from New York. He served as president of the International Trade and Development Agency. In 2014, Wolff received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award in the United States. As of October 2019, Wolff is the oldest living former member of the House of Representatives.

Lester L. Wolff
Lester L. Wolff.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 3rd district
In office
January 3, 1965 – January 3, 1973
Preceded bySteven B. Derounian
Succeeded byAngelo D. Roncallo
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 6th district
In office
January 3, 1973 – January 3, 1981
Preceded bySeymour Halpern
Succeeded byJohn LeBoutillier
Personal details
Lester Lionel Wolff

(1919-01-04) January 4, 1919 (age 100)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Blanche Silvers
(m. 1940; died 1997)
ResidenceMuttontown, New York, U.S.
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Air Force
RankUS Air Force O6 shoulderboard rotated.svg Colonel
UnitCivil Air Patrol
Battles/warsWorld War II

An expert in Asian affairs, Wolff was also the chair of the Touro College Pacific Community Institute, the author of numerous books on foreign policy, and the host of the weekly PBS show Ask Congress.

Early life and educationEdit

Wolff was born in New York City to a family that had settled in the United States during the 18th century. He became bar mitzvah at a Reform synagogue in Manhattan. Wolff attended New York Public Schools, and graduated with a degree in marketing from New York University.

Early careerEdit

He lectured at New York University from 1939 until 1941, and later became a department chair at the City College of New York. Wolff was part of the Civil Air Patrol during World War II. He was a squadron commander and a subchaser.

Wolff worked for the Long Island Press and The Bronx Home News. Wolff then founded his own firm, specializing in the food industry, and was executive director of the New York Conference of Retail Grocers. He became the producer and host of Between the Lines, a local television program, and the producer of a celebrity variety show starring Wendy Barrie.

Wolff remained active in philanthropy, heading a division of the United Jewish Appeal.

U.S. House of RepresentativesEdit

In 1957, Wolff was selected by the House of Representatives as chairman of the Advisory Committee of the Subcommittee on Consumers Study.

He was elected to Congress in 1964 and served from January 3, 1965 until January 3, 1981. Through redistricting he initially represented the 3rd District and later the 6th District. Wolff served as Chairman of the Asian and Pacific Affairs Committee, and the Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control. He commanded the Congressional Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol, raising to the rank of Colonel.

During Wolff's 1978 congressional delegation to China, he met with Deng Xiaoping. The Deng-Wolff Conversation conducted during this time was credited for its particular importance in the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between the People’s Republic of China and the United States. Wolff is the author of the Taiwan Relations Act, signed into law on April 10, 1979. TRA was born of the need of the United States to find a way to protect its significant security and commercial interests in the Republic of China in the wake of President Jimmy Carter’s termination of diplomatic relations and a mutual defense treaty of 25 years.

Wolff introduced amendments to the White House-sponsored Foreign Assistance Act of 1969 to restore the initiative for direct peace talks between Israel and the Arab states. He also played a role in the Camp David Accords.

Post-congressional careerEdit

He was the president of the International Trade and Development Agency. Wolff was the director of the Pacific Community Institute at Touro College, and has published numerous books on foreign policy. He hosted a weekly PBS show, Ask Congress, continuously since the mid-1980s. Due to his expertise in Asian culture and relations, Wolff was a well sought-after consultant. He was a director of the Griffon Corporation from 1987 to 2007. Wolff received the World Peace Prize Top Honor in 2010 and the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award in the United States, in 2014.[1]

With the death of James D. Martin on October 30, 2017, Wolff became the oldest living former member of Congress. Wolff turned 100 in January 2019.

Personal lifeEdit

Wolff married Blanche Silvers in 1940; she died in 1997.[2]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ World Peace Prize Top Honer Prize-Hon. Lester Wolff WPPAC.
  2. ^ Barkan, Ross (2017-05-30). "Long Island's 98-Year-Old Former Congressman Eats Dumplings, Hates Trump, Makes Tweets". Village Voice. Retrieved 2017-06-20.


  • Kurt F. Stone (29 December 2010). The Jews of Capitol Hill: A Compendium of Jewish Congressional Members. Scarecrow Press. pp. 230–233. ISBN 978-0-8108-7738-2.

External linksEdit