Lee H. Hamilton Biography
Lee H. Hamilton is Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University, a non-partisan educational institution seeking to improve the public’s understanding of Congress and to inspire young people and adults to take an active part in revitalizing representative government in America.
Established in 1999, the Center developed out of Hamilton’s recognition during his 34 years in the U.S. House of Representatives that the public should be more familiar with Congress’ strengths and weaknesses, its role in our system of government, and its impact on the lives of ordinary people every day. Based on the IU Bloomington campus, the Center offers an extensive array of civic education resources and activities aimed at fostering an informed electorate that understands our system of government and participates in civic life.
Hamilton’s leadership of the Center has put Indiana University at the forefront of the growing national movement to expand and improve civic education. He also is Co-Chairman of the National Advisory Committee to the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools, serving with retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer.
For more than 40 years, Hamilton has been an important voice on international relations and American national security. From 1965 to 1999 he served Indiana in the U.S. House, where his chairmanships included the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran. He also was Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress and worked to promote integrity and efficiency in the institution.
Since retiring from Congress, Hamilton has been at the center of efforts to address some of our nation’s highest-profile homeland security and foreign policy challenges.
He is currently a member of the President’s Homeland Security Advisory Council, the CIA External Advisory Board, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Task Force on Preventing the Entry of Weapons of Mass Effect on American Soil.
At Indiana University, Hamilton serves as a Professor of Practice in the School for Public and Environmental Affairs, Distinguished Scholar in the School of Global and International Studies, and Co-Chair for IU’s International Engagement Advisory Board.
He is the author of three books: How Congress Works and Why You Should Care (Indiana University Press); Strengthening Congress (Indiana University Press); and A Creative Tension: The Foreign Policy Roles of the President and Congress (Woodrow Wilson Press). He co-authored with former Gov. Thomas Kean Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission (Knopf). He writes twice-monthly commentaries about Congress and what individuals can do to make representative democracy work better.
Hamilton served as Vice Chairman of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (known as the 9/11 Commission), which issued its report in 2004. He was Co-Chairman, with former Secretary of State James A. Baker, of the Iraq Study Group, which in 2006 made recommendations on U.S. policy options in Iraq. He was Co-Chairman, with former Sen. Spencer Abraham, of the Independent Task Force on Immigration and America’s Future, which issued a report in 2006 calling for reform of the nation’s immigration laws and system. Until recently, he served as a member of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board and as Co-Chairman, with former White House National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future.
From 1999 through 2010, Hamilton was President of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, an institution in Washington, D.C., where scholars, policymakers and business leaders engage in comprehensive and non-partisan dialogue on public policy issues.
Hamilton was born in 1931 in Daytona Beach, Fla. His family relocated to Tennessee and then Evansville, Ind. He graduated from DePauw University and Indiana University School of Law, and he studied for a year at Goethe University in Germany. A former high school and college basketball star, he was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982. Before his 1964 election to Congress, he practiced law in Chicago and Columbus, Ind. He was married to Nancy Ann Hamilton for 58 years until her death in 2012. They have three children and five grandchildren.