Benjamin Leader Erdreich (born December 9, 1938 in Birmingham) is an attorney and former politician. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 1970, to the Jefferson County Commission in 1974, and represented the 6th Congressional District of Alabama in the United States House of Representatives from 1982 to 1992.
Erdreich graduated from Shades Valley High School in 1956. He received his bachelor of arts from Yale University in 1960. He then attended the University of Alabama School of Law, where he served as editor of the Alabama Law Review before graduating in 1963. After law school, he spent two years in the Army and was discharged as a 1st Lieutenant. From 1965 to 1966 he worked as an associate for Kaye, Scheler, Fierman, Hays & Handler Attorneys in New York. He then returned to Birmingham as an associate with Cooper, Mitch & Crawford and was made partner of that firm in 1969.
Between 1970 and 1974, Erdreich served one term as a Democrat in the Alabama House of Representatives. He then was elected to the Jefferson County Commission. He served for two terms, and was noted for spurring efforts to establish the Jefferson County Library Cooperative.
In 1982 Erdreich was elected to Congress from the Birmingham-based 6th District, defeating one-term Republican incumbent Albert Smith, Jr (This was the last time a Democratic challenger has defeated a sitting Republican congressman in Alabama).
Erdreich was the first Democrat to represent the 6th since 1965; it had been one of five districts to fall to the Republicans during Barry Goldwater's sweep of the state in that year's presidential election. Erdreich was re-elected four times, rarely facing serious opposition.
In 1992, however, the district was significantly redrawn as a result of a United States Department of Justice directive to create a majority-black district. After the state legislature failed to act, a federal court entered an order that shifted most of Birmingham's black residents to the 7th District. Some of the whiter and wealthier areas of Shelby and Tuscaloosa counties were then added to Erdeich's 6th District, making it one of the most Repubulican-leaning districts in the nation, and with a population that was almost 97% white.
Despite outspending his opponent, state Republican Party chairman Spencer Bachus, almost 2 to 1, Erdreich could not overcome the new demographic shift of the district and lost by seven points. (In the same election, George H. W. Bush prevailed over challenger Bill Clinton in the district by about 74% to 26%)
President Bill Clinton nominated Erdreich to chair the United States Merit Systems Protection Board in 1993. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate and served for 7 years in that role.
Erdreich, one of only a small number of Jewish politicians to ever be elected to federal office in the Deep South, was known for his bipartisan work in Congress.
After leaving politics he has partnered with his children, Jeremy and Anna in Metropolitan LLC, a development company focusing on central city projects. Among them is a townhouse on 2nd Avenue North which he shares with his wife, Ellen.
Albert Smith Jr
|Representative, 6th Congressional District of Alabama
1982 - 1992
- Erdreich, Ben L. & Steven L. Katz (February 12, 2019) "The federal merit system keeps our democracy safe. Trump and the Senate are killing its guardian." op-ed. The Washington Post
- Ben Erdreich in the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.