Charles Bernard "Charlie" Rangel (pronounced /ˈræŋɡəl/; born June 11, 1930) is the U.S. Representative for New York's 15th congressional district, serving since 1971. A member of the Democratic Party, he is the third-longest currently serving member of the House of Representatives. As its most senior member, he is also the Dean of New York's congressional delegation. In January 2007, Rangel became Chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, the first African-American to do so. He is also a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Rangel was born in Harlem in New York City, and had a somewhat troubled childhood. He earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for his service in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, where he led a group of soldiers out of a deadly Chinese Army encirclement during the Battle of Kunu-ri in 1950. Rangel graduated from New York University in 1957, and St. John's University School of Law in 1960. He then worked as a private lawyer, Assistant U.S. Attorney, and legal counsel during the early-mid 1960s. He served two terms in the New York State Assembly, from 1967 to 1970, and then defeated long-time incumbent Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. in a primary challenge on his way to being elected to the House of Representatives.
Once there, Rangel rose rapidly in the Democratic ranks, combining solidly liberal views with a pragmatic approach towards finding political and legislative compromises. His long-time concerns with battling the importation and effects of illegal drugs led to his becoming chair of the House Select Committee on Narcotics, where he helped define national policy on the issue during the 1980s. As one of Harlem's "Gang of Four", he also became a leader in New York City and State politics. He played a significant role in the creation of the 1995 Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation and the national Empowerment Zone Act, which helped change the economic face of Harlem and other inner-city areas. Rangel is known both for his genial manner, with an ability to win over fellow legislators, and for his blunt speaking; he has long been outspoken about his views, and has been arrested several times as part of political demonstrations. He was an adamant opponent of the George W. Bush administration and of the Iraq War, and put forth proposals to reinstate the draft during the first decade of the 21st century.