Stuart F. Feldman, prime Constitution Center supporter

Stuart F. Feldman
Stuart F. Feldman
Posted: July 17, 2010

Stuart F. Feldman "was a dreamer and an idea man," John Pierson, a longtime friend and a reporter in the Washington bureau of the Wall Street Journal from 1967 to 1980, said in a phone interview last week.

"He would go and talk with senators and congressmen . . . and pester the hell out of them."

Then Pierson rephrased himself.

"He was a dreamer who got things done."

Mr. Feldman, 73, of Center City, a Washington lawyer reported to have first proposed a Constitution center in Philadelphia, died of complications from multiple myeloma Saturday, July 10, at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

Mr. Feldman's advocacy was also credited with helping secure millions in federal benefits for Vietnam War veterans and with encouraging a planned Washington memorial to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

A Philadelphia Daily News report the day before the July 4, 2003, opening of the National Constitution Center on Independence Mall stated that Mr. Feldman was not being given much credit.

"Although honoring the Constitution in Philadelphia is a 19th-century idea," the newspaper reported, "Feldman's four-page proposal in 1984 - when the document's 1987 bicentennial was being planned - is seminal to the center that's come to be."

The newspaper did not state to whom the proposal was given, and there was no newspaper report about it at the time.

But in 1985, planners of the 1987 Philadelphia bicentennial celebration of the Constitution proposed that the event's principal legacy should be a building focused on the 1787 achievement.

And in 1986, Craig Eisendrath, executive director of the Pennsylvania Humanities Council and a board member of the bicentennial planning agency, We the People 200, wrote a 27-page document spelling out a plan for "a National Center for the U.S. Constitution."

Robert Brasler was chief executive officer from 1994 to 1996 of the agency planning the center, and Mr. Feldman was senior vice president from 1994 to 1997.

"He was in Washington after college," working as a lawyer, Brasler said, "all the way until '93."

But the childhood friends attended the opening, the Daily News reported, "without starring roles, among the multitudes who brought the center into existence."

And, the newspaper noted, "they're buying their own tickets to tonight's gala."

Born in Philadelphia, Mr. Feldman graduated from Cheltenham High School, earned a bachelor's degree in economics at Penn in 1958, and graduated from Penn's School of Law in 1961.

He was a lawyer with the Securities and Exchange Commission from 1961 to 1963, a planner with the Appalachian Regional Commission from 1965 to 1967, and a legislative coordinator for the U.S. Department of Transportation from 1967 to 1969.

The Washington Post reported Thursday that in the 1970s, Mr. Feldman's advocacy was well-known to Philip Geyelin, its editorial page editor at the time, and to the columnist Colman McCarthy.

The Post stated that "his efforts were key to passing amendments to the GI Bill that raised education benefits from $100 per month to more than $300 per month. He also helped establish more than 1,000 veterans' counseling centers at colleges across the country, as well as new education and job training programs in at least 10 cities. He secured millions of dollars to pay bonuses to colleges for every veteran they enrolled and helped set up public job programs for veterans."

The newspaper also reported that "in a 1989 Post op-ed, Mr. Feldman proposed that the words of King's 'I Have a Dream' speech be carved in stone at the Reflecting Pool near the Lincoln Memorial. Ten years later, the National Capital Planning Commission voted instead to authorize a memorial site on the northwest shore of the Tidal Basin, where a 28-foot statue of the civil rights leader will be erected in the coming year."

Mr. Feldman's nephew, Alexander Feldman, said that "he thought that education was the key to building a better country and the GI Bill, the National Constitution Center, and the monument to Martin Luther King were all vehicles to help educate Americans."

In addition to his nephew, Mr. Feldman is survived by a brother, Milton.

Services took place Wednesday, July 14.


Contact staff writer Walter F. Naedele at 215-854-5607 or wnaedele@phillynews.com.

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