A former Utah senator who outlasted six presidents during seven terms in office died during his eighth decade Saturday.
Orrin Hatch, 88, defeated a three-term Democrat to win his first election to the U.S. Senate, in 1976, reliably representing Conservative causes afterwards. Senator Hatch is survived by his wife, Elaine, and their six children. According to a statement from the Orrin G. Hatch Foundation, which announced his death, funeral arrangements will be forthcoming.
The longest serving Republican senator in history grew up in a family of Roosevelt Democrats, but he gradually became a conservative Republican. Societal changes like the Supreme Court’s ban on public school prayers and its Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion persuaded him America was headed in the wrong direction.
“I was convinced that someone needed to stand against these trends,” he explained in his memoir. “Someone needed to point out the deterioration of our moral fiber, the proliferation and increasing acceptance of drugs and crime, the expansion of the welfare state.”
Many prominent politicians rushed to offer remarks of remembrance and respect, along with sadness for the passing of a life-long public servant.
Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) described his deceased colleague as a giant of the Senate and a Utah pillar.
“Orrin was a friend, a mentor and an example to me and countless others,” Lee commented in a Twitter post. “His example of dedicated, principled statesmanship and consistent collegiality is missed but will never be forgotten.” He concluded by saying he and his wife, Sharon, mourn with the Hatch family.
Mitt Romney, the Utah Senator who took the seat Hatch vacated upon his retirement, also chimed in with a commiserating comment. “A great man and, like his good friend Ted Kennedy, a lion of the Senate,” Romney said in a Twitter post. “Ann and I send our deepest condolences to Elaine and the Hatch family. Rest in peace, my friend.”
“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my friend and former colleague Orrin Hatch,” noted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. “Elaine’s and my prayers are with Orrin’s family and everyone who will miss this remarkable man.” His note of sympathy was a caption above a longer statement regarding Hatch’s life and career.
Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker, a Republican, said Hatch was already an icon by the time the two first met in Washington, D.C.
“I immediately found him to be one of the most kind, generous, and genuine people in Washington,” Wicker remarked. “He would bend over backwards to help you, and he did that for me many times.”
“We’re heartbroken to hear of the passing of Sen. Orrin Hatch. His legacy of public service truly made a difference in our state and nation,” commented Utah Governor Spencer J. Cox, a Republican.
Marsha Blackburn, a Republican senator representing Tennessee, said she and her husband are saddened by Hatch’s death and join Americans in praying for his family.
“@KarenPence and I were saddened to hear of the passing of Orrin Hatch, a true statesman who represented the best of UT & America,” tweeted former Vice President Mike Pence. “As the longest serving Republican Senator in history, he dedicated decades of his life to public service & we’ll always be grateful for his leadership.”
Democrat Amy Klobuchar expressed her sympathy for the Hatch family’s loss, also. “Senator Hatch was kind to me and we worked together well,” the Minnesota senator said. “There were a lot of differences including party, height, age…you name it…but somehow we always looked for common ground. “Prayers for his family today.”
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