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E-M:/ Last of the great Republican enviros

Enviro-Mich message from "Alex J. Sagady & Associates" <ajs@sagady.com>

Republican Senator Robert T. Stafford of Vermont.   Last of the 
great Republican national environmental leaders....dead at 93.   He
would probably not recognize the Republican Party of today with its rejection of 
environmental protection, trashing of conservation and 
abandonment of science.

Robert T. Stafford: A man of few words and many convictions

Robert T. Stafford was a model politician whose public life followed the course of a half-century's history.

He was born in Rutland in 1913, and he died in Rutland, where for 18 years he lived quietly in retirement, on the morning of Saturday, Dec. 23, 2006, at the age of 93.

At the time of his retirement from the U.S. Senate in 1988, Stafford was widely admired by his colleagues as a man of integrity and conviction. In the Senate he had become a leading advocate for education and the environment. Millions of college students probably know him best for the Stafford loans that have helped finance their education.

Stafford rose to prominence the old-fashioned way, working his way up from local to state and then federal positions. He was a graduate of Rutland High School and Middlebury College (photos from the time show him in his college football uniform). He went into law practice with his father in Rutland, and then became Rutland County prosecuting attorney.

When World War II began, Stafford enlisted in the Navy, serving as a lieutenant commander from 1942-46 and again during the Korean War from 1951-53. Between the two wars he served as Rutland County state's attorney.

After his war service he became deputy attorney general, and then in 1954 he ran for attorney general and won his first election to statewide office. He had begun his climb up the ladder of Vermont politics.

In 1956 he was elected lieutenant governor, and two years later he was elected governor. In his one term as governor, he established himself as part of the liberal wing of the Republican Party, opposing anti-labor legislation and insisting that the state would not promote tourist businesses that discriminated on the basis of race or religion.

In the postwar years, we should remind ourselves, many tourist accommodations were still restricted against Jews.

In 1960 Stafford unseated the incumbent Democratic U.S. House member, William H. Meyer, and he served in the House until the death of Sen. Winston Prouty in 1971, when Gov. Deane Davis appointed Stafford to serve out Prouty's term.

As a member of the Senate, Stafford championed numerous environmental initiatives, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Safe Drinking Water Act. When Ronald Reagan became president, the Republicans also took control of the Senate, and as chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Stafford successfully opposed Reagan's efforts to turn back the environmental gains of the previous decade. These efforts included Stafford's leadership in voting to override Reagan's veto of a bill strengthening the Clean Water Act.

Stafford did not have a flamboyant personality. One reporter wrote that he gave the worst interview of anyone in Washington. He was a man of few words who won the respect of fellow senators as a man of conviction and strength. "He was a great senator and one of the nicest people I have met in or out of politics," said George Mitchell, the Democratic senator from Maine.

Stafford retired in 1988, replaced in the Senate by James Jeffords, who had grown up a few houses away from him in Rutland. Upon his retirement Stafford urged his fellow senators to do more to control acid rain and also to control the emission of carbon dioxide, which he saw, even at that early date, to be a cause of global warming.

A memorable moment during his retirement came during the bitter election that followed passage of Vermont's civil unions law in 2000. Stafford, in frail health, appeared at a press conference at the Rutland police station where he delivered a heartfelt plea: "I believe that love is one of the great forces in our society and in the state of Vermont ? And even if a same-sex couple unites with true love, what is the harm in that? What is the harm?"

By the time of Stafford's retirement, the political tide was moving to the right, and 18 years later the nation's political leadership has still not caught up with Stafford's wisdom on environmental issues. At the time of his death, we are reminded that fearless leadership, combined with humility and common sense, can achieve great things. In his time, Stafford did.

Alex J. Sagady & Associates        http://www.sagady.com

Environmental Enforcement, Permit/Technical Review, Public Policy, 
Evidence Review and Litigation Investigation on Air, Water and 
Waste/Community Environmental and Resource Protection
Prospectus at:  http://www.sagady.com/sagady.pdf 

PO Box 39,  East Lansing, MI  48826-0039  
(517) 332-6971; (517) 332-8987 (fax); ajs@sagady.com

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