George A. Kasem, 82; First Arab American in House

From a Times Staff Writer

George A. Kasem, the first Arab American to serve in the House of Representatives, has died at 82.

Kasem died Monday of pneumonia at a care facility in Carlsbad.

The one-term congressman, a liberal Democrat, was elected to serve the 25th District, encompassing West Covina, in 1958 but lost his bid for reelection in 1960.

During his brief tenure in Washington, Kasem worked for federal aid to education, medical care for the aged and funding of the San Gabriel Valley Flood Control project.

Despite his Lebanese ancestry, the Oklahoma-born Kasem angered citizens of Lebanon when he went to Beirut as a congressman. In 1959, two Lebanese newspapers asked their government to expel the visiting Kasem after he said in a speech that the creation of Israel had been "the best way to restore the tranquillity of the Middle East."

Raised in Los Angeles, Kasem served in the Army Air Force during World War II and then earned his bachelor's and law degrees at USC.

He practiced law in the Los Angeles area for most of his career.

Kasem served as a commissioner at Citrus Municipal Court in West Covina from 1978 until 1984.

He had lived in Carlsbad since 1989.

Survivors include his wife of 54 years, Catherine; a daughter, Janet Orr; and two grandchildren.

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