Pennsylvania’s longest-serving Senator, Arlen Specter, has died at age 82 from complications from non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
Specter, a US Senator from Pennsylvania from 1981-2011, was a fixture and legend in both Pennsylvania politics and throughout the country. After beginning his career as a Democrat, Specter spent 29 years as a moderate Republican Senator, and then in 2009 he switched parties to become a Democrat.
Senator Specter began his career in the 1960s as a prosecutor in Philadelphia, followed by a key role on the Warren Commission investigating the death of President Kennedy. Following his role on the commission, Specter solidified his political future by serving as a tough Philadelphia prosecutor.
In in 1980, he was swept into office as a moderate during the Republican congressional gains made during Reagan’s election. During his early Senate career, he was perhaps best known for his role on the Judiciary Committee, helping to shoot down Robert Bork’s 1987 nomination, and also fiercely questioning Anita Hill to secure Clarence Thomas’s seat on the Supreme Court.
Senator Specter’s moderate political views were increasingly at odds with Republican party leaders during the 1990s and 2000s. In 2009, he became a Democrat, and lost his first election in 20 years in 2010. The Senator struggled with brain cancer and non-Hodgkins lymphoma, as well as related complications, which eventually overcame him at his Philadelphia home.