Navy Officer Richard Lugar. Photo: dicklugar.com
This marks the end of an institution: Lugar is a Capitol Hill legend not only for longevity, but for his efficacy as a bipartisan politician. Now 80 years old, he will retire from the Senate and pursue other means of public service. Either Mourdock or his Democratic opponent, Rep. Joe Donnelly, will take over Lugar's seat in January.
Lugar smiled at the crowd that gathered to hear his concession speech. Serving the people of Indiana in the United States Senate has been the greatest honor of my public life, he said.
Off to a Good Start
For Dick Lugar, civil service started young. He joined the Boy Scouts and was highly decorated with merit badges, eventually progressing to the highest level. Now, Eagle Scout Lugar sometimes visits young Scout troops to offer encouragement.
Throughout his education, Lugar was known for his diligence. He graduated from Denison University in Granville, Ohio, with a perfect 4.0 GPA. He then went on to become a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University.
In 1957, Lugar volunteered for the U.S. Navy. He became an officer, delivering intelligence briefings for Admiral Arleigh Burke, the chief of naval operations under Eisenhower and Kennedy.
Politics for the People
Lugar entered politics in 1964, when he served on the Indianapolis school board. From there, his moved on to become the mayor of Indianapolis. Next he took the presidency of the National League of Cities, and finally, in 1976, a seat as U.S. senator for the Hoosier State.
Photo of Senator Lugar in 1995. Reuters/Win McNamee
He became a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1979 and was named chairman in 1985 before the Republicans lost the Senate in 1986.
It was in the arena of foreign relations that Lugar really made his mark--his achievements there are widely commended. He opposed Ronald Reagan, a president whom he greatly respected, during the 1980s to impose sanctions on apartheid South Africa and help to free Nelson Mandela from prison. In 1991, he worked with Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn, a Democrat, to pursue disarmament with Russia via the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program. To date, about 7,600 strategic warheads have been deactivated, not to mention the stockpiles of destroyed intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear submarines, bombers and more.
In the period, he helped convince Congress to support U.S. involvement in the Gulf War under George H.W. Bush. But in 2006, he argued against George W. Bush's push to send more troops into Iraq, suggesting instead a more diplomatic approach.
All In Moderation
Overall, Lugar's voting record reflects a now-rare willingness to work for bipartisan solutions to national and international conflicts. Recent votes are a testament to this philosophy; he voted in support of the Paying A Fair Share Act of 2012, a largely symbolic measure pushed by President Barack Obama to institute the Buffett Rule, a minimum tax on the wealthy. But he also voted against several of the president's measures, including the health care reform that is currently awaiting a constitutionality ruling in the Supreme Court.
Richard Lugar worked closely with President Ronald Reagan. Photo: dicklugar.com
In times of stark congressional divisions, this moderate style of politicking has become less and less effective. Lugar's independence was painted as a weakness during his 2012 campaign against Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, a Tea Party favorite who ran on a platform of steadfast conservatism.
Hoosiers want to see Republicans inside the U.S. Senate take a more conservative track, said Mourdock during his acceptance speech after defeating the veteran senator.
Lugar accepted his defeat, but delivered a warning for Mourdock in his concession speech.
We are experiencing deep political divisions in our society right now, he said. And these divisions have stalemated progress in critical areas. But these divisions are not insurmountable. I agree that people of good will, regardless of party, can work together for the benefit of country.
Richard Lugar and his wife Deb appear at a 2011 event. Reuters/Yuri Gripas