United States Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, the last remaining World War II veteran serving in the Senate, died due to complications from viral pneumonia at 4:02 a.m. today at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell. He was 89 years old.
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.
Lautenberg was a long-time leader on environmental protection, transportation and protecting public health. His career highlights include:
- Passing the law that banned smoking on airplanes;
- Authoring the law that prevented domestic abusers from possessing guns;
- Writing landmark drunk driving laws, including the nationwide .08 blood alcohol standard and the 21 year drinking age law;
- Co-writing the new GI Bill for the 21st Century;
- Authoring the “Toxic Right to Know” law to empower the public to know what pollutants are being released into their neighborhood; and
- Writing the law to create the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park.
After Lautenberg cast his 9,000th vote in December 2011, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said on the Senate floor, “Frank Lautenberg has been one of the most productive senators in the history of this country.”
On Feb.15, Lautenberg announced he would not seek a sixth term in the Senate. During his announcement in his hometown of Paterson, he set out an agenda for the remaining two years of his term that included reforming U.S. chemical safety laws, improving gun safety laws, and providing federal resources for New Jersey to rebuild from Superstorm Sandy.
The senator had made significant progress on all three items, most recently by announcing a bipartisan breakthrough on modernizing the Toxic Substances Control Act. Lautenberg’s legislation to ban high-capacity ammunition magazines also received a vote in the Senate earlier this year.
Lautenberg was born the son of immigrants and grew up poor in Paterson. He enlisted in the military at the age of 18 and served in the Army in Europe during World War II. Upon returning home, he graduated from Columbia University with the help of the G.I. Bill. He joined with two boyhood friends to found Automatic Data Processing (ADP), which today employees 57,000 people worldwide and 4,500 in New Jersey. He left the business world to pursue a career in public service and give back to the country that helped give him so much.
Lautenberg held the record for the number of votes cast by a New Jersey Senator.