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Politicos of the Past

by Legacy Staff

As Election Day 2010 gets underway, we take a look back at a few notable politicians who died earlier this year.

Robert Byrd

Robert Byrd (AP Photo)

The Democratic Senator was the longest serving in history, representing West Virginia from 1959 up until his death in 2010. In 1964, he famously filibustered the Civil Rights Act with a 14-hour speech (he would later renounce his support of segregation) and during his years on the Senate Appropriations Committee he steered billions in federal dollars to his home state of West Virginia. He also authored an award-winning, 4-volume history of the Senate, was named PETA “Person of the Year” in 2007 for a speech he gave in the senate against dogfighting, and was an outspoken critic of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He died June 28 at the age of 92.

Karen McCarthy

Karen McCarthy (AP Photo)

First elected in 1995, McCarthy served as the U.S. Representative for Missouri’s 5th district for a decade, serving on the Ways and Means, Energy, and Appropriations committees. In 2003, she announced she would not be seeking re-election for a sixth term and instead sought treatment for alcoholism. She died Oct. 5 at age 63 from complications related to Alzheimer’s disease.


John Murtha

John Murtha (AP Photo)

The Pennsylvania Democrat was the first Vietnam veteran elected to Congress and served on the powerful House subcommittee overseeing funding for the Pentagon. He was one of only two congressmen to vote for the reinstatement of the military draft in 2004, and in 2005 gained attention for calling for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq, a war he had initially supported. Murtha died Feb. 8, 2010, following complications from a gall bladder surgery. He was 77.

Owen Pickett

Owen Pickett (AP Photo)

Former U.S. Rep. from Virginia Beach, Virginia, Pickett was a Democrat who represented the 2nd District from 1987 to 2001. A member of the House Armed Services Committee, he also served in the Virginia House of Delegates for 14 years and was noted for advocating for the military and their families. Pickett died Oct. 27 at the age of 80.

Dan Rostenkowski

Dan Rostenkowski (AP Photo)

Chicago Democrat Rostenkowski served 18 terms in Congress and was chair of the House Ways and Means Committee during the Reagan years. He helped reform the tax system in the 1980s and is credited for leading an effort to rescue social security. His political career was derailed when he pleaded guilty to mail fraud in 1996 and was sentenced to 17 months in federal prison. He died Aug. 11 from lung cancer.

Ted Stevens

Ted Stevens (AP Photo)

The Alaskan Senator known as “Uncle Ted” represented the state for over forty years, becoming the longest-serving Republican senator in history. He helped shape much of Alaska’s economic and social development (Stevens was named Alaskan of the Century in 1999) and was key in establishing the United States Olympic Committee. He was involved in a federal corruption scandal but his conviction was later dismissed for gross prosecutorial misconduct. Stevens was also key in bringing to Alaska funding for what would later be known as ‘the Bridge to Nowhere,’ a project which became a political football and symbol for pork barrel spending in the 2008 presidential election. Stevens died Aug. 9 in a plane crash.

Stewart Udall

Stewart Udall (AP Photo)

Udall served as Secretary of the Interior under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. A pioneer in the environmental movement, he helped spearhead the enactment of several key conservation laws and greatly expanded the number of federal public lands. In 1962, he also played a key role in forcing the Washington Redskins football team to integrate. After his death March 20 at the age of 90, President Obama said, “For the better part of three decades, Stewart Udall served this nation honorably. Whether in the skies above Italy in World War II, in Congress or as Secretary of the Interior, Stewart Udall left an indelible mark on this nation and inspired countless Americans who will continue his fight for clean air, clean water and to maintain our many natural treasures.”

Charlie Wilson

Charlie Wilson (AP Photo)

Known as “Good Time Charlie,” Wilson was a 12-term Democratic representative from the 2nd congressional district in Texas. He is best remembered for his role in Operation Cyclone, a CIA-led covert operation aimed at arming Afghan mujahideen fighters during the Soviet war in Afghanistan. His efforts were the subject of the book “Charlie Wilson’s War,” which was later adapted into a film starring Tom Hanks. He died of cardiopulmonary arrest Feb. 10.

For more, visit our politicians memorial.

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