News | Press Releases 2019

In Memoriam: Dr. János Horváth 1921-2019

Washington, DC – Members of the Hungarian American Coalition (Coalition) were deeply saddened to learn that Dr. János Horváth, Doyen of the Hungarian Parliament, founding member of the Kossuth Foundation and long-time Coalition member passed away on November 25, 2019. He was 98 years old.

Dr. János Horváth at the Coalition’s 7th annual Gala Dinner on May 11, 2011 at the House of Sweden in Washington, DC

During his remarkable life, he suffered under both Nazism and Communism, was imprisoned, sentenced to death and eventually driven to flee his homeland. In the United States, he remained an intellectual and passionate activist, who constantly advocated for democracy, human rights and free markets in both the United States and Hungary.

Dr. János Horváth was born on November 7, 1921 in Cece (Fejér County), Hungary. 

He graduated from the Count István Széchenyi Commercial High School 1940 in Budapest and went on to study Economics at the Palatine József University of Technology and Economic Sciences. He was an active Scout. 

He worked as an accountant at the Nostra General Public Warehouse Co., and eventually became the President of the company. Between 1936-39 he was involved in reformed youth movements. From 1938-39 he was President of Soli Deo Gloria College. 

In 1942, he joined the Independent Smallholders, Agrarian Workers and Civic Party, as well as the Peasant Association. In 1944, as a member of the Free Life Student Movement, he took part in the national resistance. The Hungarian Nazis imprisoned him and sentenced him to death, but he was able to escape.

From 1945 to 1947 he worked as the Economic Policy Director of the Hungarian Peasant Association and a member of the Municipal Committee of Budapest. He was elected Representative of the National Assembly in 1945, as the youngest representative. On January 16, 1947, he was arrested on trumped up charges and was sentenced to hard labor for four years.

After being released, he was relegated to work as a blue-collar laborer. In 1954, he became a technician.

On October 23, 1956, when the Revolution broke out, he immediately became the Managing Director of the National Economic Reconstruction Council. He was reelected as President of the Independent Smallholders Party for the XIII District in Budapest. After the Soviets returned to crush the Revolution on November 4, he was forced to flee to the United States.

In November 1956, he arrived to New York and settled there with his family. In exile, he was one of the leaders of the Hungarian Revolutionary Council, in Strasbourg and later in New York, and was a founding member of the Kossuth Foundation. He received his PhD from Columbia University in 1966. 

He was a college professor at Butler University in Indiana for 27 years and served as President for the Indianan Council for World Affairs, among other positions.

In 1992, he was persuaded to run as a Republican candidate in Indiana for the US House of Representatives. He was unsuccessful in two elections, losing on both occasions to a strong incumbent. During his time in the US, he gained a strong reputation and a network of contacts, among them Ronald Reagan and George Bush. He was greatly influenced by these friendships.

In 1997, after 41 years of exile, he returned to a now free and democratic Hungary, at the invitation of Viktor Orbán.

He became an honorary doctor and visiting professor of the Budapest University of Economic Sciences and Public Administration (currently: Corvinus University of Budapest).. Since 1999, he was an officer at the Hungarian Economic Association and a member of the Society for the Promotion of Culture.

In 1998, he became the Chairman of the Economic Policy Committee of Fidesz – Hungarian Civic Union. He was a Member of Parliament between 1998-2014, gaining his mandates from the national list in the first three elections, and from the territorial list in the 2010 elections. He was a member of the Parliamentary Committee of Foreign Affairs since 2006. After the death of László Varga in 2003, Dr. Horváth became the oldest sitting Member of Parliament until 2014. In that capacity he opened the inaugural meeting of the National Assembly in 2006 and 2010 as the “Father of the House.”

Dr. János Horváth was honored by the Hungarian government with the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit (Magyar Köztársasági Érdemrend Tiszti Kereszt) in 2006 and with the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit (Magyar Köztársasági Érdemrend Nagykereszt) in 2011. Dr. Horváth also received the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom from the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in 2007, the Miklós Radnóti Antiracist Award in 2013, and the Bajcsy-Zsilinszky Memorial Plaque (Bajcsy-Zsilinszky emlékplakett) as well as the József Mindszenty Memorial Plaque (Mindszenty-emlékérem) in 2014.

In 2011, at its 7th annual Gala Dinner, the Coalition recognized Dr. Horváth for his lifelong dedication to building and defending democratic institutions in Hungary and in the United States, inspiring generations on both sides of the Atlantic.

Over the years, he attended many Coalition Gala and Mikulás dinners and participated in Coalition-sponsored projects.

Watch him as part of the Witness Project from the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (published with permission to the Memory Project website) here.

Read his exceptional essay about the 1956 Hungarian Revolution in the Eyes of Ronald Reagan here.

Dr. Horváth is survived by his loving wife, Linda, his daughter Erzsébet and his three grandchildren.

The Hungarian American community mourns the loss of this true Hungarian patriot, who spent a lifetime deeply committed to democratic institutions in Hungary and in the United States. His legacy is an inspiration to all of us.

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