• Life and accomplishments of former Ohio Rep. “Big Jim” Traficant remembered.
By Pete Papaherakles —
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — More than 1,000 people showed up at the DeYor Performing Arts Center in Youngstown, Ohio to attend a tribute honoring former Representative James A. Traficant, Jr., who passed away on September 27 in a tragic tractor accident on his daughter’s farm.
The event was not a memorial but a public tribute titled “Celebration of the Life and Accomplishments of James A. Traficant, Jr.” and included speeches by notable friends and associates of Jim’s as well as a speech by his wife Tish. Some speakers were not able to attend, and their speeches were videotaped and shown on a big screen, which dominated the stage.
A collection of Jim’s personal items was on display at the hall’s lobby, including Jim’s boots, coats, baseball bats and other mementos.
A dozen or more videoclips of Jim’s life were shown on the big screen throughout the event, including several of Jim’s famous “One Minute” speeches made on the Congress floor.
People mostly spoke of all the things Jim did for Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley area in general, as well as pay tribute to his larger-than-life personality, big heart and multitude of achievements.
Listening to the speakers tell their stories, one got the feeling that Jim was to Youngstown what George Bailey was to Bedford Falls in the Christmas classic movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Jim touched the lives of so many people in Youngstown that the town would be a much different place had Jim never been born. From the stories they told, Youngstown would have been a more drab, uninspired place had Jim not graced the townspeople with his charisma for most of the last 73 years.
Former Youngstown Mayor Patrick Ungaro, a childhood friend of Jim’s, talked of how their families would often get together, and the boys, who were both athletic, competed in sports, mostly football.
Another childhood friend, Jim Menighan, told of how Jim could put such a spin on the football and throw it with such speed that he could actually hear it whistle as if went past him.
“He had these great big hands and could throw the ball over the Moon,” Menighan said.
Menighan and other friends talked of how Jim went on to be the star quarterback at Cardinal Mooney High School a position that earned him a position at the University of Pittsburgh.
Legendary NFL tight end and coach Mike Ditka of the Chicago Bears was also at Pittsburgh at that time and was a teammate and a close friend of Jim’s. He spoke of those days and of his lifetime friendship with Jim via video on the big screen.
Also speaking through video was FOX News commentator Greta Van Susteren, who hosted Jim’s first interview after he was released from prison in 2009. She expressed great admiration for Jim, who always had good things to say about her.
Former lightweight boxing champion and fellow Mooney graduate Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini gave a great speech about the intensity and passion that Jim had.
Rock legend and Second Amendment activist Ted Nugent praised Jim as a great American patriot on a taped interview and dedicated a guitar rendition of “the Star Spangled Banner” to him.
Jim Traficant’s wife Tish gave a closing speech about how she remembered and cherished the family time she spent with Jim but was impartial to the politics.
Several speakers talked about Jim’s years as sheriff and how he refused to evict homeowners losing their homes to foreclosures in hard times. They reminded attendees of the unprecedented $1.6 billion in federal funds Jim brought home to Mahoning Valley and all the projects that were built with it.
Dr. William C. Binning, a former Youngstown State University professor, who also was the event’s master of ceremonies, noted that one of Jim’s crowning accomplishments was having secured $26.8 million in federal funds to build the Covelli Centre, a 5,900-seat multi-purpose arena in Youngstown, which many feel should have been named the Traficant Center.
Several other speakers cited Traficant’s many other achievements, which transformed Youngstown, including helping to form the Port Authority, which runs the Youngstown airport, obtaining funds to build two federal courthouses in downtown Youngstown, getting $25 million to construct the state Route 711 connector, as well as $5 million to open Federal Plaza and other urban projects.
Jim was also praised for sponsoring legislation to shift the burden of proof from the taxpayer to the Internal Revenue Service in civil tax cases.
Political candidate, AFP correspondent and PFUSA organizer Jim Condit, Jr., who also was a good friend of Jim’s, attended.
“I really liked the event,” Condit said, “but I just have one complaint.” Referring to one of the speakers, John J. Duncan, Jr., a Republican congressman from Tennessee who spoke via video, Condit commented: “He went on to say how Jim did all these good things but then he said that Jim also did some bad things, and “needed to be punished.” Jim didn’t need to be punished, because he did nothing wrong. He was simply targeted because he was an outspoken critic of the Fed, the IRS and the Israeli lobby. Duncan was just trying to justify why he also voted to send Jim to prison.”
Another criticism was the fact that the name AMERICAN FREE PRESS was not mentioned even once by the speakers, although Jim has been writing a column for AFP every week since 2009. The words Federal Reserve, Israel, AIPAC and “railroaded” were never mentioned either, nor was PROJECT FREEDOM USA.
Pete Papaherakles is a writer and political cartoonist for AFP and is also AFP’s outreach director. Pete is interested in getting AFP writers and editors on the podium at patriotic events. Call him at 202-544-5977 if you know of an event you think AFP should attend.