|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Wisconsin's 4th district
April 3, 1984 - January 3, 2005
|Member of the Wisconsin Senate|
from the 3rd district
|Member of the Wisconsin State Assembly|
from the 7th district
Gerald Daniel Kleczka
November 26, 1943
|Died||October 8, 2017 (aged 73)|
Madison, Wisconsin area
|Alma mater||University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee|
Gerald Daniel "Jerry" Kleczka (November 26, 1943 - October 8, 2017), was an American politician and Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives from 1984 to 2005, representing Wisconsin's 4th congressional district. The district includes the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he was born.
After graduating from Milwaukee's Don Bosco High School, in 1961, he attended the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee for two years. Afterward, he served as an accountant and a member of the National Guard. Kleczka was elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly, serving from 1969 to 1974. Later, he was a member of the Wisconsin State Senate from 1975 to 1984. Kleczka was elected to the House in a special election following the death of Representative Clement J. Zablocki, defeating Milwaukee County District Attorney E. Michael McCann in the Democratic primary.
While in Congress, Kleczka was a member of the United States House Committee on Ways and Means and later the United States House Committee on the Budget. He was known to be one of the more liberal members of Congress and helped to secure money for many programs for education, poverty relief, and housing improvements.
Kleczka was arrested at least twice for drunk driving. A 1995 arrest for drunken driving -- his blood alcohol content was twice the legal limit in Virginia -- led him to acknowledge his alcoholism and seek treatment. Friends say it softened his rough edges. He turned to God as part of his recovery and continued to meet regularly with fellow recovering alcoholics.
For his first 10-and-a-half terms, Kleczka represented a district that included most of the southern half of Milwaukee, as well as part of eastern Waukesha County. After the 2000 census, the 5th District, covering downtown and north Milwaukee and represented by fellow Democrat Tom Barrett, was eliminated, and most of its territory was merged with the 4th District. The new 4th was a more compact district located solely in Milwaukee County, and took in all of the city of Milwaukee; it was by far the most Democratic district in Wisconsin. While the 4th was more Barrett's district than Kleczka's, Barrett opted to run for governor, effectively handing the seat to Kleczka.
The pronunciation of Kleczka's name often proved baffling to the uninformed. Rep. Frank Annunzio (D-IL) repeatedly butchered it to the point that an exasperated Kleczka took to calling him "Rep. Annunciation."
Kleczka announced his retirement in 2004, and did not run for reelection. He officially retired in January 2005 after ten terms in Congress, and was succeeded by State Senator Gwen Moore, also a Democrat.