NEW JERSEY – U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D–NJ) died this morning due to complications from viral pneumonia at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, various newspapers have reported.
Lautenberg, who represented New Jersey in the Senate from 1982 to 2001 and 2003 until his death, was the last remaining World War II veteran in the senate. He was 89.
Lautenberg’s office confirmed his death. On Feb. 15, Sen. Lautenberg announced he would not seek a sixth term in the Senate.
A long-time member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Lautenberg focused much of his time in Washington working on environmental protection, transportation, and public health legislation. He spearheaded the banning of smoking on airplane, the raising of the nationwide blood alcohol standard to .08 and the drinking age to 21, and co-wrote an updated version of G.I. Bill, called a bill “for the 21st Century.”
Lautenberg was well-known for advocating for New Jersey’s interests, especially regarding transportation. He played an important role in securing funding for Amtrak and NJ Transit projects in the state, and worked to create the Paterson Great Falls National Historic Landmark in his hometown.
In December, 2011, Lautenberg recorded a landmark 9000th vote in the Senate, prompting majority leader Harry Reid to comment that, “Lautenberg has been one of the most productive senators in the history of this country.”
Lautenberg enlisted in the military at the age of 18 and served in the Army during World War II. Upon returning home, he graduated from Columbia University on the G.I. Bill and enjoyed a profitable career in business before entering politics.
Senator 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. – Dean DeChiaro