James P. Jontz, 55; environmental activist served in Congress

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

James P. Jontz, 55, an environmental activist who served as a congressman from Indiana and later as head of the Americans for Democratic Action, died Saturday of cancer at his home in Portland, Ore.

Born in Indianapolis, Jontz graduated from Indiana University with a degree in geology and pursued graduate studies at Purdue and Butler universities. His opposition to a dam-building project in central Indiana sparked a run for the state's General Assembly in 1974. He was just 22 and won the election by a narrow margin.

Jontz served in the General Assembly and later the state Senate until 1986, when he was elected to Congress. He was reelected to Congress in 1988 and '90. His support for environmental issues gained the support of celebrities including singers Carole King, Don Henley and Bob Weir and brought nationwide attention to his campaigns.

In 1994 he tried to unseat U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar but lost.

Jontz moved to Portland a year later and became involved in environmental groups. In 1998, he was elected president of the Americans for Democratic Action, a post he held until 2002. More recently, he was coordinator of the group's Working Families Win, an effort to educate candidates for Congress and national office about fair trade and environmental issues.

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