|He could be cranky and tiresome, and he didn't
care two figs whether you liked him.
But throughout most of the 1950s, '60s and '70s, Sacramentans liked John Moss, enough to elect him to Congress 13 times.
"I am," he said in a 1966 interview, "I think justifiably, proud of delivering the goods for the people I represent."
Moss was much more than a local pol who made sure his district got its share of the government's largesse. He was father of the Freedom of Information Act, which opened scores of previously closed government doors to public scrutiny. He was also a chief sponsor of the Clean Air Act and led congressional probes into the dealings of oil companies, insurance firms and other industries.
Born in Utah in 1915, Moss came to Sacramento in 1923. After serving in the Navy in World War II, he got his real estate broker's license. In 1948, Moss won the first of two terms in the Assembly, then ran for Congress in 1952. He won by four-tenths of a percentage point.
But his popularity grew, somewhat paradoxically because he bluntly said what he thought and did what he thought was right.
"Too many people want to be popular around here," Moss said in the days before he retired. "I don't really give a damn. If it's the right vote, it will become popular."
Early in his congressional career, Moss persuaded President Truman to give final approval to construction of Folsom Dam, despite a recommendation from the Interior Department that the project be delayed indefinitely. He later pushed through legislation that developed the American River levee system.
Moss also successfully landed more federal spending at area military bases, secured federal money for construction of then-Sacramento Metropolitan Airport and led efforts to build a new main post office on Royal Oaks Drive and a new federal building and courthouse on Capitol Mall, which bears his name.
After retiring from Congress in 1979, Moss became chairman of a newly formed bank and stayed active in many local civic and charitable causes.
In 1992, however, he was forced out of Sacramento, when doctors told him that because of his long-time asthma, he should leave his South Land Park home for the cleaner skies of San Francisco. It was bitter irony for a man who had helped craft the nation's clean air laws.
Moss died in 1997 at age 82. "John Moss was a man of great integrity who made an impact on all Americans," President Clinton said at the time of his death. "He ... made a distinguished record of searching out the truth."
Copyright 1999 Sacramento Bee. Used by permission.