On This Day: George A. Kasem of California becomes first Arab American member of Congress

On January 3, 1959, George A. Kasem takes office in the U.S. House of Representatives for California’s 25th District, making history as the first Arab American Congressperson.

Kasem, who is of Lebanese descent, was born in Oklahoma and raised in Los Angeles. He ran as a Democrat, flipping the seat previously held by Republican Congressman Patrick J. Hillings, who retired to run for Attorney General of California. Kasem won by a razor-thin margin—50.1% of the vote over Republican candidate Prescott O. Lieberg’s 49.9%—and was part of a national shift during the 1958 midterms, during which Republicans lost 48 seats to Democrats during President Eisenhower’s second term.

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