INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Richard Lugar worked to alert Americans about the threat of terrorism years
before “weapons of mass destruction” became a common phrase following the
Sept. 11 attacks.
Republican senator from Indiana helped start a program that destroyed
thousands of former Soviet nuclear and chemical weapons after the Cold War
ended - then warned during a short-lived 1996 run for president about the
danger of such devices falling into the hands of terrorists.
represents a theft opportunity for terrorists and a temptation for security
personnel who might seek to profit by selling weapons on the black market,”
Lugar said in 2005. “We do not want the question posed the day after an
attack on an American military base.”
The soft-spoken and
thoughtful former Rhodes Scholar was a leading Republican voice on foreign
policy matters during his 36 years in the U.S. Senate, but whose reputation
of working with Democrats ultimately cost him the office in 2012. He died
Sunday at age 87 at a hospital in Virginia, where he was being treated for a
rare neurological disorder called chronic inflammatory demylinating
polyneuropathy, or CIPD, the Lugar Center in Washington said in a statement.
popularity in Indiana gave him the freedom to concentrate largely on foreign
policy and national security matters - a focus highlighted by his
collaboration with Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn on a program under which the
United States paid to dismantle and secure thousands of nuclear warheads and
missiles in the former Soviet states after the Cold War ended.
Lugar served for
decades on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, twice as chairman, where
he helped steer arms reduction pacts for the presidential administrations of
George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, supported an expansion of
NATO and favored aid to Nicaragua’s Contra rebels.
“Lugar was a leader
not only in the Senate but also on the world stage, where he worked
tirelessly to bring pressure to end apartheid in South Africa and enforce
treaties that destroyed Soviet weapons of mass destruction,” Vice President
Mike Pence, a former governor of Indiana, said in a statement.
governor, Purdue University President Mitch Daniels, who spent more than a
decade as chief of staff to Lugar, said, “The world is safer from nuclear
danger because of him.”
Lugar tried to
translate his foreign policy expertise into a 1996 presidential run. But his
campaign for the GOP nomination went badly from the start. His kickoff rally
began just hours after the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal
building, and he struggled to build name recognition and support.
He withdrew a year
into the race after failing to win a single convention delegate, but not
before foreshadowing the threat of terrorism that would become all too real
on Sept. 11, 2001. Three of his television ads depicted mushroom clouds and
warned of the growing danger of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of
Lugar’s time as a
Washington foreign policy expert was the highlight of a political career
that began with his election to the Indianapolis school board in the early
1960s. City GOP leaders encouraged him to run for mayor in 1967. He spent
eight years at the city’s helm.
He first ran for
Senate in 1974, narrowly losing to Sen. Birch Bayh in a Democratic landslide
after the Watergate scandal. He ran again two years later and easily
unseated three-term Democratic Sen. Vance Hartke, launching a 36-year
Capitol Hill career that made him Indiana’s longest-serving senator.
He built a
reputation as someone willing to work across the aisle and showed he could
buck his party, notably with two major disagreements with President Ronald
In 1986, Reagan was
inclined to accept the rigged election that would have kept Philippine
President Ferdinand Marcos in office. But Lugar went to the islands as an
election observer and said Reagan was misinformed. Lugar’s stand shifted
U.S. support to the ultimate winner, Corazon Aquino, bringing down Marcos.
In another break
with Reagan, Lugar pushed through Congress - over the president’s veto - the
economic sanctions that Nelson Mandela said played a crucial role in
overthrowing white minority rule in South Africa.
At home, Lugar
remained the Indiana GOP’s most popular figure, trouncing opponents with at
least two-thirds of the vote in four straight elections.
He was the top
Republican on the Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee when he first worked
with Obama, taking the then-Illinois senator with him to Russia, Ukraine and
Azerbaijan in 2005 to visit weapon dismantlement sites. He then co-sponsored
2007 legislation with Obama on eliminating stockpiles of shoulder-fired
cited his work with Lugar during the 2008 presidential campaign as evidence
of his bipartisanship and foreign policy experience. Lugar endorsed John
McCain but didn’t distance himself from Obama at the time.
That changed by
Lugar’s 2012 re-election campaign. The attacks on his conservatism -
combined with voter wariness about his age and long Washington tenure and
questions about him not owning a home in Indiana since the late 1970s - led
to Lugar’s first defeat since 1974. His tea party-backed challenger, Richard
Mourdock, grabbed 60 percent of the GOP primary vote.
disarmament work with Nunn, the Democratic senator, led to about 7,600
Soviet nuclear warheads being deactivated and the destruction of more than
900 intercontinental ballistic missiles by the time Lugar left office,
according to U.S. military figures. The program is credited with removing
all nuclear weapons from the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Ukraine
Born April 4, 1932,
in Indianapolis, Lugar graduated at the top of his classes at both
Indianapolis Shortridge High School and at Denison University in Ohio. At
Denison, he met his future wife, Charlene. They married in 1956 and had four