James L. Oberstar


Member of Congress, Eighth District, Minnesota 1975-2011
Biography of Hon. James L. Oberstar
Member of Congress, Eighth District, Minnesota 1975-2011

Chairman, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, 2007-2011

James Oberstar was born on September 10th, 1934 in Chisholm, Minnesota. His father, Louis Oberstar, was an iron ore miner, and his mother, Mary, worked in a garment factory to supplement the family income while she raised him and his two brothers.

In college Oberstar worked in the open pit mines to pay for his education. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1956, with a double major in French and Political Science. He continued his education at the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium, Laval University in Quebec and Georgetown University in Washington. From 1959-1962 he worked at the U.S. Naval Mission to Haiti, teaching French and Creole to U.S. Marine Corps personnel and English to Haitian military.

In 1963 Oberstar began working for Rep. John Blatnik from Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District. When Rep. Blatnik retired in 1974, Oberstar sought and won his first term in the House of Representatives. The people of Northeast Minnesota returned him to Washington for 17 more terms; he ended his career as the longest-serving Member of Congress in Minnesota history.

In the 36 years he served in the House, Congressman Oberstar became the body’s leading expert on transportation policy. He was a champion of safety in all modes of travel, and a fierce advocate for federal investment in our national transportation infrastructure.

Although his time in Congress has ended, Congressman Oberstar continues to be active in transportation, as a speaker, lecturer and consultant.

He resides in Maryland with his wife, Jean, but still travels frequently back to his home state. He is chairman of the advisory board for the Humphrey School of Public Affairs’ Center for Excellence in Rural Safety at the University of Minnesota, and is a Visiting Scholar at both the Humphrey School and the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

Congressman Oberstar is a member of the board of directors of Geronimo Wind Energy of Edina, Minnesota, and the board of International Student House of Washington, D.C. He serves as Senior Advisor to consulting firm NSI, of Washington D.C., which assists companies with state and local government procurement and policy issues. He is also an Advisor to medical technology firm GeaCom, Inc., of Duluth, Minnesota.

Because of his life-long love of the French language and the French people, and his efforts in Congress for improved understanding and relations between the United States and France, Oberstar was awarded the rank of Commander in the National Order of Merit (Commandeur dans l’Ordre National du Mérite) by the French government in June, 2012.