Retired Sen. Orrin Hatch, longest-serving Utah and GOP senator, passed away at age 88

Former Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the longest-serving senator from Utah and longest-serving Republican senator ever, passed away Saturday at the age of 88, the Washington Examiner reported.

Hatch was first elected to the Senate in 1977 and served 42 years over seven terms and seven presidential administrations to finally retire from that deliberative legislative body in 2019 after having assumed the position of president pro tempore in 2015, making him third in line to the presidency.

From poverty to prosperity

The late senator’s death was first announced by the Orrin G. Hatch Foundation, an organization he created in his retirement to promote “civility” and “solutions,” and to carry on his tradition of reaching across the aisle in an effort to solve the nation’s problems.

Hatch died Saturday evening in Salt Lake City while surrounded by his family, and is survived by his wife Elaine, their six children, and dozens of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

He was born in 1934 as the son of a carpenter in Pennsylvania and grew up in poverty. He later worked his way through an education at Brigham Young University and later earned a law degree from the University of Pittsburgh Law School, and went on to practice law for several years in Pennsylvania and Utah.

He first ran for office in 1976 and was elected, and throughout his political career, in addition to serving as chair or ranking member of several prominent committees, he sponsored or co-sponsored more than 750 bills that eventually became law — reportedly more legislation passed than any other senator currently alive. Some highlights of that legacy include the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, among many others.

Condolences and praise

Former President Donald Trump, who had awarded Sen. Hatch the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2018 shortly before his retirement, extended his “deepest condolences” to the Hatch family in a statement that honored the late senator as a “true warrior for our Country, for liberty, and for his beloved state of Utah.”

“He was as wise as he was kind, and as tough as he was smart — he loved America and his contributions to our Country were tremendous,” Trump added. “His legacy will surely live on through the many lives he impacted. May God bless Orrin Hatch.”

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) tweeted that the news of Hatch’s passing “breaks my heart. Abby and I are so grateful for the opportunities we had to spend time with this incredible public servant. He was always so kind and generous with his time and wisdom. Utah mourns with the Hatch family.”

His most recent former colleague in the Senate from Utah, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), also issued a statement to mark his friend’s passing and praised Hatch as “a giant of the Senate and a pillar in Utah.” Hatch was a “mentor” known for his “brilliant mind, quick wit, and care for his nation, his state, and his colleagues” and set an example for others with his “dedicated, principled statesmanship and consistent collegiality.”

No word yet on the cause of death or funeral plans

The Examiner noted that tributes to Hatch and his legacy flowed from friends and colleagues on both sides of the aisle whom he had worked with well over the years.

It is unknown at this time what the cause of death was for the late senator, nor what the funeral and memorial arrangements will be, but that information will likely be released in the near future.

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