June 18, 2019 | 72° F

U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg dies

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Sen. Frank Lautenberg passed away today at the age of 89. He served on the United States Senate from 1982 to 2001 and from 2003 to 2013. 

The last World War II veteran in the Senate, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), passed away early this morning. He was also the oldest living member of the cabinet at the time of his passing.

A statement sent out from his press office said Lautenberg passed away at 4:02 a.m. today at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell.

Lautenberg was a leader on environmental protection, transportation and protecting public health. He helped pass the law that banned smoking on airplanes and wrote the law that prevented domestic abusers from possessing guns.

He wrote landmark drunk driving laws, including the nationwide .08 blood alcohol standard and the 21-year drinking age law. He also co-wrote the new GI Bill for the 21st Century.

In a statement released by the Human Rights Campaign, president Chad Griffin said Lautenberg was a beacon for equality in Congress.

“He fought for justice with more than simply his vote. He knew bullying in our schools is a scourge, and he stood up to end it,” Griffin said. “He knew that workplace discrimination and hate crimes erode the freedom of all Americans, so he worked to stop them, session after session.”

He said nothing summed up Lautenberg’s legacy could be summed up in his 2004 floor speech opposing a federal constitutional amendment banning marriage equality.

“When we see things that are shameful, we should not be too spineless to respond,” Lautenberg said in his speech.

Sen. Lautenberg had spine, and he will be deeply missed, Griffin said.

In the statement from his office, it noted after he cast his 9,000 vote in December 2011, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the floor Lautenberg was one of the most productive senators in the history of the nation.

Serving in his fifth term, Lautenberg announced in February he would not seek a sixth term and would have retired in January 2015.

University awarded Lautenberg the Rutgers Medal in April 2000, in recognition of his support for federal student aid programs, as well as research, service and related projects at the University. Lautenberg also sat down the Rutgers Oral History Archives program coordinator.

"Sen. Lautenberg, who was proud to say that he attended college on the GI Bill, knew firsthand the value of higher education and how, with the right programs in place, there is no limit to what a young person can accomplish," said University President Robert L. Barchi in a statement. 

In his final term, Lautenberg set an agenda including reforming U.S. chemical safety laws, improving gun safety laws, and provising federal resources for NJ to rebuild from Superstorm Sandy.

Lautenberg is survived by his wife, Bonnie Englebardt Lautenberg; six children and their spouses, Ellen Lautenberg and Doug Hendel, Nan and Joe Morgart, Josh and Christina Lautenberg, Lisa and Doug Birer, Danielle Englebardt and Stuart Katzoff, Lara Englebardt Metz and Corey Metz; and 13 grandchildren.

He was 89.

By Shawn Smith

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