Pete Stark

On this date in 1931, Fortney Hillman “Pete” Stark Jr.  was born in Milwaukee, Wis. He graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a degree in engineering (1953), and served in the U.S. Air Force from 1955-57. In 1960 he earned a master’s in business administration from the University of California-Berkeley. In 1963 he founded Security National Bank (Walnut Creek, Calif.), which grew into a $1 billion financial institution.

Stark served in Congress from 1973 to 2013 representing the 13th Congressional District, a diverse area covering the east side of the San Francisco Bay, stretching from Alameda to Fremont. Stark received less than 60% of the vote only twice since his first election. He served on the House Banking and Currency Committee in his first term in Congress and as a senior member of the Ways and Means Committee.

Stark for years was the only open nonbeliever in Congress. In 2007, members of Congress received a survey about their religious belief and Stark answered “that I didn’t believe in a supreme being. Within a week, I had 5,000 responses from around the world, almost all of them favorable.” (Stark, accepting FFRF’s 2010 Emperor Has No Clothes Award via a videotaped message.)

Stark issued a statement about his nonbelief on March 12, 2007: “Like our nation’s founders, I strongly support the separation of church and state. I look forward to working with the Secular Coalition to stop the promotion of narrow religious beliefs in science, marriage contracts, the military and the provision of social services.” He received the 2007 Harvard Humanist of the Year award. In 2008 he was honored as Humanist of the Year by the American Humanist Association. In 2011 he introduced a House bill “Expressing support for designation of Feb. 12, 2011, as Darwin Day and recognizing the importance of science in the betterment of humanity.” 

He and Deborah Roderick Stark have seven children. D. 2020.

Public domain photo: Stark in 2002.

Freedom From Religion Foundation