Romano L. Mazzoli, a Democrat who represented Louisville and its suburbs in Congress for 12 terms before retiring in 1994, died Tuesday in Louisville. He was 89.
Mazzoli was elected from the 3rd District to his first term in November 1970 and held memberships on the House Judiciary Committee, the House Small Business Committee and various subcommittees. A federal building in downtown Louisville is named for him.
Retiring Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth, who is ending his eighth term in the 3rd District, said when faced with a dilemma, he would often ask himself what Mazzoli would have done.
“I could never adequately express what his friendship and support has meant to me during my political career,” Yarmuth said in a statement Tuesday.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, noted Mazzoli’s work on immigration reform and his post-congressional career teaching at the University of Louisville’s law school.
“I know I join with a chorus of former colleagues, students, and friends in saying he will truly be missed,” McConnell said.
Mazzoli accepted no political action committee contributions, limited contributions to $100 rather than the $1,000 limit and spent a relatively paltry $170,000 to win his 12th term in 1992.
In the 1980s, he co-authored major immigration legislation that passed in Congress. His father immigrated from Italy as an 11-year-old and in a 2008 naturalization event, urged the country’s newest citizens to “create your own chapter of the American dream. Live that life well and full.”
Mazzoli said then that the majority of immigrants entering the country are like his forefathers — hard working and willing to sacrifice for their children. He said the number of immigrants entering illegally are in the minority.
He said those cases tend to “rile people up,” deterring Congress from passing “reasonable, sensible and compassionate” immigration legislation in recent years.
Mazzoli’s political career began with his election to the Kentucky State Senate in 1967.
Born in Louisville on Nov. 2, 1932, Mazzoli graduated in 1954 from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in business administration. He served two years of active duty in the U.S. Army. In 1960, he graduated first in his class from the University of Louisville School of Law and joined the law department of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Co.
Mazzoli entered private law practice in 1962 and from 1964 to 1968, he lectured in business law at Bellarmine College in Louisville.
Republished with permission from The Associated Press.