In a little over a month the Hoosier State lost two statesmen who were leaders at the national level in different ways.
Last month, longtime U.S. Sen. Birch Bayh, 91, passed away and, on Sunday, the longest serving member of the U.S Senate to serve from Indiana, Richard Lugar, died. He was 87.
I first met Lugar in 1974 while serving as a reporter with the Ball State Daily News and the mayor of Indianapolis was running against Bayh.
Lugar lost in 1974 to Bayh, but two years later he defeated Democrat Vance Hartke to start a career in the U.S. Senate that lasted 36 years.
A Rhodes Scholar, Lugar was acknowledged as a foreign policy expert during his years in the Senate. He worked with Democrat Sam Nunn to reduce the number of nuclear and biological weapons in the world.
A major accomplishment of the Nunn-Lugar effort was to make sure nuclear weapons from the Soviet Union didn’t fall into the hands of terrorists.
Lugar planned to run for U.S. president in 1996, but his announcement in Indianapolis was on the same day of the bombing of the federal government building in Oklahoma City.
He came from a different era in politics. Lugar was cordial and outgoing in small gatherings, but in large groups his speeches focused on the issues and not on catch phrases.
Although his bid for president was not successful, one of the ironies of that campaign was people commented that Lugar was “too smart” to be president.
During much of Lugar’s career in the U.S. Senate, Indiana was represented by Democrat Lee Hamilton in the U.S. House. Hamilton was also known for his knowledge of foreign policy.
In many ways, it was a stellar time for the Hoosier State. Lugar and Hamilton were both recognized as at the top of the foreign policy list.
Lugar was also not afraid to meet with the news media one on one.
A highlight of my career will also be several opportunities that Lugar afforded.
It seemed whenever Lugar was traveling from Indianapolis to a northern locale in northern Indiana, he would make it a point to stop in Anderson.
I can’t relate how many times Sen. Lugar would stop at the Holiday Inn in Anderson and we would discuss the latest issue of the day.
The senator also greeted me with a warm smile and hardy welcome and we talked about many different topics.
Another was an opportunity to fly with Lugar to a campaign event in Evansville. Spending several hours with him was enlightening to be able to watch how he mingled with his staff and supporters in Vanderburgh County.
It was unfortunate that in 2012 the tea party backed candidate Richard Mourdock who defeated Lugar for a seventh term in the Senate.
Instead of fading out of sight, Lugar created the Lugar Center to encourage bipartisanship in Congress.
I will always consider him one of the trio of giants from Indiana in the Congress along with Bayh and Hamilton.
The world is a little bit safer today because of Richard Lugar.
Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.