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Bartel J. Jonkman (1884-1955) | Heritage Hall, Hekman Library

Name: Bartel J. Jonkman (1884-1955)


Historical Note:

In 1882, Rev. John B. Jonkman emigrated from the Netherlands to the United States.  Two years later, after settling in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Rev. John B. Jonkman and his wife Sarah Holwerda Jonkman were blessed with the birth of a son named Bartel J. Jonkman.

Bartel J. Jonkman eventually became, as Rev. Henry Beets stated in the Missionary Monthly, “the third one from our circles to obtain a seat in our national House of Representatives.”

The Grand Rapids Press sTated in a headline in March 1940 that, “Jonkman rises from modest start to a seat in Washington.”  Jonkman’s start was indeed modest.

As a youth, Jonkman attended both public and parochial schools.  He did not attend high school, but received from his father’s instruction what he considered an excellent equivalent.

At the age of sixteen Bartel moved with his family to Zeeland, Michigan, when his father received a call to a Christian Reformed Church there.  He worked in a furniture factory until 1904 when he married Ann Van den Bosch.  Soon after his marriage, he entered a Grand Rapids business college.  Following graduation, he obtained a job in Grand Rapids at an ice and fuel company; later he was employed in a bank.  While there a “yearning to become a lawyer overcame him.”

Jonkman and his wife and three daughters moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, so Jonkman could attend law school.  He returned to Grand Rapids in 1914 with a law degree from the University of Michigan.

From 1915 to 1920, Jonkman was employed as the assistant prosecuting attorney of Kent County.  Following this, he engaged in private practice for eight years.  Jonkman served as prosecuting attorney for Kent County during the years 1928 to 1936.

His career as the fifth district representative from Michigan began in 1940.  During the almost nine-year period that he spent in Washington, Jonkman was a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.  Because of this, he visited Europe during World War II to “investigate the coordination of the war effort of this country with that of its allies.”  He also helped to prepare legislation that involved the arming of United States merchant vessels.

Jonkman’s loyalty to the Republican Party was evident in his opposition to President Roosevelt and New Deal politics; he also strongly opposed United States intervention in World War II at the beginning of his career as Representative.

Gerald R. Ford defeated Bartel Jonkman in the 1948 election.  He then returned to private law practice in Grand Rapids.  Jonkman passed away on June 13, 1955.






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