NEW YORK – Eugene Telemachus Rossides, a standout in all the numerous contexts of his distinguished life and career – a star for the football team of Columbia University known as the Lions, Republican Party stalwart, running the New York state campaigns for two U.S. Senators and in 1968 for presidential candidate Richard Nixon, pioneering international trade attorney, publisher of the National Herald, and warrior for Justice for Cyprus, spearheading the Rule of Law Embargo against Turkey’s illegal invasion and occupation of the land of his father’s birth, passed away on May 16 at the age of 92.
Gene, as he was known to friends and foes alike, a man as determined to overcome the latter as he was devoted to the former, had many things to be proud of – being a son of Cyprus and of Sparta not least among them. As a Columbia alum and star of its football team when it was a national powerhouse and as co-founder of the Community’s lobbying efforts in Washington, he was a hero for his classmates and Hellenes, and as a champion of the Rule of Law Gene Rossides was a lion among men.
If the list of his many achievements were read out loud to him, however, he might beam brightest at being named a devoted husband and father. Rossides is survived by his wife Aphrodite and his children, Michael, Gale, Eleni, and Alexander.
Rossides long wanted to establish an organization to coordinate the Greek-American community’s support in Washington for Greece and Cyprus. The dream became a necessity after the brutal illegal Turkish invasion and occupation of the land of his father Telemachus’ birth.
With his typical determination and clear goals, a true quarterback with a unique ability to fire up and recruit colleagues, he led the effort which prompted Congress to pass the 1975-78 arms embargo on Turkey. He first fought the all-powerful Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Rossides’ chief nemesis – in 2014 his book Kissinger & Cyprus: A Study in Lawlessness was published – and then forces within the administration of Jimmy Carter, whom Rossides, a life-long Republican, backed in the 1976 election on the basis of the former’s promise to support Cyprus. Rossides’ disappointment over Carter’s reversal was more bitter to him than the tragic sacrifice of his standing in the Republican party.
With Rossides, the context of his action was always ‘the team’. “Without that office and staff, we would not have succeeded in passing the historic rule of law arms embargo against Turkey,” Rossides told The National Herald in a 2010 interview.
The effort and the staff laid the foundation for the establishment of the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) to advocate for U.S. interests in U.S.-Greece-Cyprus relations.
“Gene Rossides also founded the American Hellenic Institute Foundation (AHIF) in 1975. It was the first think tank devoted exclusively to the study of policy issues involving the Greek American community and contemporary Hellenism,” according to the AHI website.
His public service career began with his appointment as Assistant Attorney General of the State of New York, serving on the Rackets Bureau prosecuting organized crime under the legendary Attorney General Frank Hogan, who Rossides revered.
A former Legal Officer for the Air Material Command, Rossides held the Reserve rank of Air Force Captain.
According to the New York Times, Rossides “spent two and a half years as an assistant to the undersecretary of the Treasury in the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower” and later served as Assistant Secretary for the United States Treasury in the Nixon administration, “overseeing the Customs Service, the Secret Service and other agencies and enforcing rules on trade and tariffs.” Afterwards he took up private law practice as a partner based in Washington in the Manhattan firm of Rogers & Wells.
Eugene Telemachus Rossides was born in Brooklyn on October 23, 1927. His mother, Anna (Maravel) Rossides, was a native of Sparta, Greece and his father, Telemachus, was a physician who had come to America from Cyprus and was reportedly the first Greek physician in Brooklyn. His father died of pneumonia when Rossides was a month old, and his mother took a job as a waitress to support him and his 2-year-old brother, Daniel, who, while also a fine athlete, became a distinguished author and professor of sociology at Dartmouth University.
Sharing the story of his youth, he began with his dear mother, saying, “she made $20 a week,” Rossides told The New York Times in 1964. “My brother, when he was old enough, took odd jobs. Eventually I had a paper route. But every chance I could, I sneaked down to the Parade Grounds near Prospect Park to play football or baseball.”
Rossides started at halfback for Columbia’s 1945 team and scored five touchdowns against Cornell, then switched to quarterback as a junior after being tutored by renowned New York Giants quarterback Sid Luckman in spring practices.
Rossides grew up in the streets of Flatbush and the parish of St. Constantine and Helen in downtown Brooklyn which produced a steady stream of outstanding Americans and Hellenes. His honors included Investiture in The Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle – Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in America, Commander of the Order of the Phoenix by President Konstantinos Stephanopoulos of the Hellenic Republic (2004), the House of Representatives of Cyprus Medal (2014), and the Republic of Cyprus Presidential Exceptional Service Medal (2016).
Additional awards included: Induction into the Columbia Athletics Hall of Fame and being named to Columbia Football's Team of the 20th Century, honorary degree of Doctor of Laws of the Academy of Athens (2005), AHEPA-Archbishop Iakovos Humanitarian Award (2000), induction into the AHEPA Hellenic Athletic Hall of Fame, and the AHEPA-Stamos Family Lifetime Achievement Award (2014).
Rossides was arguably the first Greek-American to gain wide celebrity. The Times wrote of him that he was “an outstanding passer and runner at Erasmus Hall High School in Flatbush Brooklyn,” a decade after Luckman played there.
At a season-ending banquet for Rossides’ 1944 high school team, he was summoned to take a phone call. “It was from Sid Luckman,” Rossides recalled long afterward. “He said, ‘You go play for Lou Little at Columbia.’ And that was it.”
Indeed When one hears the stirring words of the Columbia fight song “roar, lion, roar
And wake the echoes of the Hudson Valley,” it must be noted that Eugene T. Rossides inspired many outbursts from the stands of Baker Field on the shores of the Hudson River at the northern tip of Manhattan.
Rossides was selected by the Giants in the 10th round of the 1949 N.F.L. draft, but accepted a scholarship to Columbia Law School instead and graduated in 1952.
The tributes to Rossides began as soon as his death was announced on May 18.
“It is with a heavy heart that I reflect upon Gene Rossides and what he meant to the community, AHI, and me, personally,” AHI President and CEO Nick Larigakis said. “I am forever indebted and grateful to Mr. Rossides for his leadership, guidance, and mentorship over the decades. I am most appreciative of his entrusting me with the opportunity to lead the AHI. I am never under any illusion that I am replacing him because there is no replacing a legend…On a more personal level, I always considered Gene Rossides like a second father…He will be remembered as a man of virtue and integrity, a genuine man. Gene Rossides did what he did out of true conviction and principle, and in so doing, he
Aphrodite; his children, Michael, Gale, Eleni, and Alexander; and the entire Rossides family.”
Father Alexander Karloutsos, Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in a message to The National Herald summed up what Rossides meant to the Community. “I had the honor of working with him on justice for Cyprus and effectively working with the Congress to abide by the rule of law principle of our Country. Gene Rossides was a great quarterback at Columbia and he was definitely the early days quarterback of the Greek Lobby…He was a great leader because he was one of the Community’s great quarterbacks who was willing to take big and ugly hits in order for our Community to achieve results for Cyprus, Greece, and the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In 1994, it was Gene Rossides and his closest coworker, Nick Larigakis, that introduced and passed a House Resolution under the leadership of Congressman Michael Bilirakis in support of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, religious freedom for the Mother Church, and the opening of the Halki Seminary.”
Entrepreneur and philanthropist Philip Christopher, Founder and President of the Pancyprian Association of America told The National Herald, “the Greek Cypriot community will always be grateful to him for bringing the Greek American community into collective action to establish the embargo on Turkey on the basis of the Rule of Law. Eugene joins the ranks of our angels in heaven – Andy Athens, George Livanos, Nikos Mouyiaris, all who are still fighting for the just cause of Cyprus. May his memory be eternal.”
Andonios Neroulias, for two decades President of the New York Chapter of AHI and founder of its much-duplicated monthly networking reception, said “Gene was a towering figure among our Greek American community, and he dedicated most of his public life to its causes, and to the Rule of Law.
He will be missed, but his work will remain as a reminder of his achievements. Αιώνια του η Μνήμη.”