Sinatra will receive Congressional honor

WASHINGTON (AP) — “Ol’ Blue Eyes” is headed for gold.
Frank Sinatra, the recipient of numerous awards for an entertainment career that spans six decades, will add the Congressional Gold Medal to the collection under a bill that won final passage on Tuesday in the House.
The medal is Congress’ most prestigious civilian honor.
“Frank Sinatra is perhaps the greatest singer of popular American music of this century,” said Rep. Michael Castle, R-Del.
Rep. Jose Serrano, D-N.Y., the sponsor, said he was introduced to Sinatra’s music and the English language when his father returned home to Puerto Rico after World War II with a set of the balladeer’s albums.
“I immediately fell in love with both,” added Serrano, who owns hundreds of Sinatra’s recordings and tapes of more than two dozen films.
“His music to me is no different than his music to so many other people,” he added. “It serves this incurable romantic with the ability to listen to the best music the world has ever heard.”
The House approved the bill, which advances to President Clinton, by voice vote. The Senate passed a similar version in February.
The bill also authorizes up to $30,000 to pay for the medal, and the sale of bronze replicas to recover the costs.
Sinatra, who was at his Beverly Hills, Calif., home at the time of the House vote, said he never imagined receiving honors from Congress when he began work as a waiter in his native New Jersey.
“I am truly quite moved and deeply honored by this marvelous recognition and happily share the Congressional Gold Medal with the talented people with whom I’ve worked,” the 81-year-old Sinatra said.
“Today, as a proud American, Congress may have brought a tear to my eyes, but that lofty institution has also made me very, very happy,” he added.
Congress initially used the award to honor military leaders but began during the 20th century to recognize excellence in a range of fields, including the arts, athletics, politics, science and entertainment.
George Washington, for “wise and spirited conduct” in the Revolutionary War, received the first medal, approved in March of 1776.
More than 320 of them have been awarded since then to individuals including Winston Churchill, Bob Hope, Howard Hughes, Joe Louis, Lady Bird Johnson and Walt Disney.
Sinatra, who suffered an apparent heart attack in January, launched his solo singing career in 1942. He also has produced, directed or appeared in more than 50 movies and has won many major awards.
He received the nation’s highest civilian award, the Medal of Freedom, given to him in 1985 by former President Reagan.