Robert Edward Badham, a close friend and ally of Ronald Reagan who helped define Orange County politics during his 26 years as a Republican assemblyman and congressman from Newport Beach, died Friday after suffering a heart attack. He was 76.
“He was a very fair guy who saw the good in everything,” said his daughter, Phyllis Alzamora. “He really had lots of friends.”
Born in Los Angeles on June 9, 1929, Badham was a Stanford University graduate, a Korean War veteran and an executive in his family’s hardware business when he first ran for office in 1962. While serving as foreman on a federal grand jury, Alzamora said, Badham apparently “went around spouting his views on everything, and everyone said, ‘Why not run for public office?’ He consulted a few friends, and they all said that he was the guy.”
As an assemblyman from 1962 to 1976, Badham co-authored legislation to establish personalized state license plates and to help protect tide pools along the Southern California coast.
Moving to Congress in 1976, Badham served as a ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee and representative to the North Atlantic Assembly, a division of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
“He’s an expert in national defense and probably one of the 10 leading specialists on military systems in Congress,” former chief of staff Bill Schreiber said when the congressman was succeeded by Rep. Christopher Cox in 1988.
Badham maintained a fairly low profile in Washington, explaining to The Times in 1986 that “I’m not a public person. I grew up in elementary school and high school being the class clown.... I don’t think it’s because I’m taking myself much more seriously [now], nor do I think it’s because I’m a snob. But I find myself ... as one who is not a glad-hander.”
Yet he was unapologetic and not above a certain feistiness when assailed by critics.
When Congress Watch, a Washington public interest group, reported that for two years running Badham had traveled abroad at taxpayers’ expense more than any other U.S. congressman but one, he challenged critics to “vote for someone else.”
When he was attacked for spending campaign funds on $500 dresses for his wife, gifts to friends and dinnerware for his home, Badham dared donors to ask for their money back.
Alzamora said that after her father left Congress, he served on the state Board of Accountancy and as vice chairman of Newport Beach’s Civil Service Board. He also helped raise money for Hoag Hospital, where he died after suffering a heart attack at a Balboa Island post office Thursday.
Badham is survived by his wife, Anne; daughters Phyllis; Sharron Badham and Jennifer Stewart; and sons Robert E. Badham Jr. and William Badham; and 11 grandchildren.
Services were scheduled for Wednesday at Our Lady Queen of Angels Church in Corona del Mar. In lieu of flowers, Alzamora said, mourners are asked to make donations in Badham’s name to the Hoag Hospital Heart Institute.