10 Things You Didn't Know About Barney Frank

Frank is a representative from Massachusetts and the chair of the House Financial Services Committee.

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By SHARE

1. Barnett "Barney" Frank was born March 31, 1940, in Bayonne, N.J. He is the second of four children born to Sam Frank, who ran a truck stop in Jersey City, and Elsie Frank, a legal secretary.

2. Frank says he realized he was gay when he was 13 years old. He told the Boston Globe in 1995: "I was aware when I was 11 and 12 that my sexual feelings were different than the other guys'. But I thought I was just a little slow to get those feelings. And then it just hit me like a thunderbolt one day. It was terrifying and emotionally very devastating."

3. In 1957, Frank graduated from Bayonne High School. He went on to Harvard, where he graduated in 1962. Frank then taught undergraduates while pursuing a Ph.D. He left in 1968 before completing the degree in order to work as Boston Mayor Kevin White's chief assistant.

4. In 1972, Frank won a seat in the Massachusetts State Legislature. The following year, he introduced the state's first two gay rights bills.

5. In 1980, Pope John Paul II ordered all Roman Catholic priests to withdraw from electoral politics. Father Robert Drinan, who represented the Fourth Congressional District in Massachusetts, complied. More than a dozen local politicians eyed the seat. Frank narrowly won the election. His slogan was "Neatness Isn't Everything," a reference to his rumpled wardrobe. 

6. In 1987, Frank became the first congressman to voluntarily announce his homosexuality publicly. 

7. In 1989, Frank found himself in a major scandal. Four years earlier, Frank had engaged the services of a male escort named Stephen Gobie. Frank later hired Gobie as a driver despite knowing that he was on probation. Frank also used his House privileges to waive Gobie's parking tickets. When Frank discovered that Gobie was running a prostitution service out of his Capitol Hill apartment, he fired him. Gobie responded by telling his story to the news media. Attempts to expel or censure Frank, led by members of the House Ethics Committee who included Rep. Larry Craig, failed.

8. Frank initially decided not to seek reelection in 1990; however, he changed his mind and ended up winning with 66 percent of the vote.

9. After the "Republican revolution" of 1994, Frank frequently butted heads with House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who famously said, "Barney Frank hates me." Frank told the New York Times in 1996 that he did "despise" Gingrich because of the "negative effect he has on American politics."

10. A former aide has written a biography called Barney Frank: The Story of America's Only Left-Handed, Gay, Jewish Congressman. It will be published later this year.

Sources:

  • Boston Globe
  • New York Times
  • New Yorker
  • Washington Post