Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), a member of the Commerce
Committee and Communications Subcommittee, died Monday at New York-Presbyterian
Hospital/Weill Cornell of complications from viral pneumonia, according to his
office. He was 89.
The five-term senator had announced earlier this year that
he would retire at the end of this term -- in two years.
Lautenberg was familiar in broadcast circles for his
long-time championing of local broadcasting in his home state, which often manifested
itself in criticism
of Fox's ownership of WWOR New York as well as concern
about media ownership rule revisions.
Lautenberg grew up in Paterson, N.J., and served in World
War II. He founded ADP (Automatic Data Processing) before deciding to run for
an open Senate seat in 1982. He retired briefly in 2000, but ran again in 2002 --
and won -- and was re-elected 2008. According to his office, he had been the
last World War II veteran serving in the Senate.
He is survived by his wife, Bonnie Englebardt Lautenberg;
six children, and 13 grandchildren.
"Senator Lautenberg fought hard for working class Americans and was a dedicated public servant," said FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, in a statement. "It was an honor to have worked with him while I served on staff of the Senate Commerce Committee [she was a top telecom advisor]. His death is a loss to the Senate and the nation."
"[Sen. Lautenberg] was a staunch and stalwart champion of public broadcasting and our mission of education, public safety, well-informed citizenship and the preservation of American history and culture," said Association of Public Television Stations President Patrick Butler. "We mourn the loss of Senator Lautenberg, but we celebrate his long and useful life in the service of his country.
"Our country lost a true civil liberties titan
today," said Laura Murphy, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative
Office, in a statement. "From his service during World War II to his final
months in the Senate, Sen. Lautenberg understood the importance of fighting for
the rights of every American. He was a champion for religious liberty and
leaves behind a legacy of fighting for women's rights and reproductive freedom.
We will sorely miss his voice and passion."
"I have been privileged to serve with him
in the Senate for over two years and to have gotten to know him as public
servant and the great person he was," said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in a
statement. "Frank served his country and state with courage and dignity,
and I will always remember the way he tirelessly championed the cause of
veterans like him who have sacrificed so much for America."
"We mourn the passing of a World War II veteran and fixture on Capitol Hill for three decades," said National Association of Broadcasters spokesman Dennis Wharton.