Otis Pike, maverick Democratic congressman on LI, dies at 92

Former Rep. Otis G. Pike, a maverick Riverhead Former Rep. Otis G. Pike, a maverick Riverhead Democrat who served nine terms in Congress armed with a cutting wit and led a 1970s House investigation into CIA activities, died in Florida, his daughter Lois Pike Eyre said. He was 92. Photo Credit: Handout

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Former Rep. Otis G. Pike, a maverick Riverhead Democrat who served nine terms in Congress armed with a cutting wit and led a 1970s House investigation into CIA activities, died Monday in Florida, his daughter Lois Pike Eyre said.

Pike, 92, died in the VNA Hospice in Vero Beach of natural causes, Eyre said.

"He was the greatest Long Island congressman I have ever known," said Karl Grossman, a journalism professor at SUNY Old Westbury, who covered Pike's early career. "This guy had integrity like you wouldn't believe."

"And to top it off, he had the greatest sense of humor," he said.

With his banjo and ukulele on the campaign trail, Pike would write songs about his opponents and current events.

He was first elected in 1960 in the 1st Congressional District that covered all of Republican-leaning Suffolk County. He played a key role in passing federal legislation that created the Fire Island National Seashore, holding it up as one of his greatest accomplishments, according to Shirley G.S. Simon, 82, the former treasurer of Republicans for Pike.

Pike received national attention fighting against military waste, taking to the floor of the House to mock military brass getting flight pay for desk jobs.

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In 1967, Pike accused a Long Island firm of charging the military outrageous prices for little nuts, bolts and bearings. On the House floor with a small 50-cent steel rod, he announced the military paid $25.55 for it.

"In the manufacturer's catalog, this rod is described as 'precision shafting.' For once, the American taxpayer got precisely what he paid for," he said.

His biggest fight came in 1975, as he headed a House Select Committee on Intelligence, which investigated questionable CIA activities, taking on agency leadership and Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger.

"When it came to the intelligence community, he was an investigator, not a cooperator, and he declined to live by the rules set up by the CIA, the State Department and the President himself," Newsday's Myron Waldman wrote in 1978.

The House voted to refuse to release the committee report on suspected abuses of the CIA, "effectively destroying what could have been Pike's greatest legislative triumph," Waldman said.

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Pike won one more term before deciding not to seek re-election. He became a syndicated columnist for 20 years. Otis Grey Pike was born Aug. 31, 1921, in Riverhead. He was an orphan by 7 and was raised by two older sisters and an aunt. He joined the Marines, flying dive bomber and night flier missions in the Pacific during World War II, his family said. He later returned to Riverhead to work as an attorney, before running for local office.

Eyre, his daughter, said her father loved boats and fishing, including a former WWII Navy launch that he converted into a cabin cruiser. "It was an ugly boat," she said. "But there weren't any phones."

Pike, who in later years split his time between Vero Beach and Virginia, is survived by his second wife, Barbe Bonjour Pike of Florida. Pike had three children with his first wife, Doris O. Pike, who died in 1996. Besides his daughter, survivors include a son, Douglas, 64, who lives in Paoli, Pa. He was predeased by another son, Robert.

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