Remembering Five American Politicians Who Died In 2010
Politicians are like lawyers: No one really likes them, but it is still a shame to see them go after they, too, offered service to our country. The following politicians died over the past year. Each one of them helped our country progress in one way or another. Whether you are Democratic or Republican, Liberal or Conservative, these people did what they thought was best for the people who followed them. Here are five political leaders that passed in 2010.
Many people probably only know Charlie Wilson from the Tom Hanks movie "Charlie Wilson's War" (2007) where we learned that this politician helped to defeat the Russians. The charismatic Democrat from Texas who was instrumental in funding the Afghanistan resistance fighting Soviet occupation after the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan. He is also responsible for the rise of Osama bin Laden while he was helping the Afghanistan freedom fighters, the Mujahideen. He served in Congress from 1973 until 1996. He died of heart failure in Lufkin Texas. He as 76.
This American Republican was chief of staff to Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and helped to plan Nixon's resignation. He also served as Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, the second-highest ranking officer in the Army, and as Supreme Allied Commander Europe commanding all U.S. and NATO forces in Europe. A veteran of the Korean War and Vietnam War, Haig was a recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star with oak leaf cluster, and the Purple Heart. Haig was probably best known (and parodied) during Ronald Reagan's assassination attempt where he was quoted as saying to reporters, "I am in control here" as a result of Reagan's hospitalization. He was wrong. Vice President Bush (Sr.) was actually in charge during the president's incapacitation, followed by Speaker of the House (Tip O'Neill), followed by President pro tempore of the Senate (Strom Thurmond). Haig died in the hospital due to complications from an infection. He was 85.
Robert Byrd was the longest-serving member of the U.S. Congress, who sat one term in the House, then 51 years in the Senate. To give you an idea of how long he was in office, it was the year Truman was President and we left the Korean War. Byrd was an early recruiter for the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940s before entering politics. The West Virginia Democrat died in a Washington area hospital. Byrd was the last surviving senator to have voted on a bill granting statehood to a U.S. territory. At the time of Byrd's death, fourteen sitting or former members of the Senate had not been born when Byrd's tenure in the Senate began. He was 92 and no official cause of death was announced.
Where Robert Byrd was the longest-serving Democrat, Ted Stevens was the longest-serving Republican senator in American history until he was defeated in the midst of scandal in 2008. He was President pro tempore in the 108th and 109th Congresses from January 3, 2003, to January 3, 2007, and the third senator to hold the title of President pro tempore emeritus. In 2008, Stevens was embroiled in a federal corruption trial as he ran for re-election to the Senate. He was found guilty, and eight days later was narrowly defeated at the polls. Six months later his conviction was dismissed on grounds of gross prosecutorial misconduct. Stevens was killed in a small plane crash in his home state of Alaska. He was 86.
A well-respected American diplomat, he brokered a Bosnian peace deal in 1995 and was working as a special U.S. envoy to Afghanistan when he died suddenly in Washington after surgery to repair his aorta. Holbrooke led an fulfilling career in which he was an American diplomat, magazine editor, author, professor, Peace Corps official, and investment banker. He was the only person to have held the position of Assistant Secretary of State for two different regions of the world (Asia from 1977 to 1981 and Europe from 1994 to 1996). Later, Holbrooke was the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan under the Obama administration. He was 69.