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Edward P. Costigan: A Featured Biography

Edward P. Costigan (D-CO)

Edward P. Costigan served just one term in the Senate, from 1931 to 1937, but left an important legacy. Born in Virginia and raised in Colorado, Costigan established a successful law practice in Denver. His defense of the United Mine Workers in several high-profile cases brought him to public attention, and he became active in local and state politics. He helped organize the Progressive Party of Colorado and ran unsuccessfully for governor twice but succeeded in his bid for the Senate as a Democrat in 1930. Coming to office in the midst of the Great Depression, Costigan supported state relief programs, but it was his unyielding commitment to anti-lynching legislation that established his legacy. In 1933 Costigan drafted a federal anti-lynching bill. Cosponsored with New York senator Robert Wagner, the Costigan-Wagner Act sought to impose fines or imprisonment on local and state officials who failed to prevent death or injury at the hands of a lynch mob. The bill gained support from the Senate Judiciary Committee but fell victim to intense opposition from southern members and the general apathy of many northern senators. Two years later, Costigan again introduced an anti-lynching bill, prompting southern senators to launch a lengthy filibuster. Unable to muster the votes needed to end debate, Costigan withdrew his bill. Suffering ill health, he declined to seek reelection in 1936. He died in 1939 without ever seeing his bill come to a vote. In fact, not until 2022 did an anti-lynching bill finally become law, belatedly fulfilling Costigan’s legacy.

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