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Orrin Hatch dies at 88: Republican represented Utah in Senate for 4 decades

Orrin G. Hatch, who became the longest-serving Republican senator in history as he represented Utah for more than four decades, died Saturday at age 88.

Hatch passed away at 5:30 p.m. in Salt Lake City, surrounded by family, according to a statement from his foundation, which did not specify a cause of death.

A conservative on most economic and social issues, he nonetheless teamed with Democrats several times during his long career on issues ranging from stem cell research to rights for people with disabilities to expanding children’s health insurance. 

He also formed friendships across the aisle, particularly with the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

Orrin G. Hatch, who became the longest-serving Republican senator in history as he represented Utah for more than four decades, died Saturday at age 88

On November 16, 2018, President Donald Trump awarded Hatch with the highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom

On November 16, 2018, President Donald Trump awarded Hatch with the highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom

He also championed GOP issues like abortion limits and helped shape the U.S. Supreme Court, including defending Clarence Thomas against sexual harassment allegations during confirmation hearings.

Toward the end of his career, he also helped pass a federal tax overhaul and pushed for President Donald Trump to downsize two national monuments in Utah as he called for a return to an era of political civility. He became an ally of Trump.

He launched the Hatch Foundation as he retired in 2019 and was replaced by Mitt Romney. 

He was also noted for his side career as a singer and recording artist of music with themes of his religious faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

He is survived by his wife, Elaine, their six children, and dozens of grandchildren. 

Details regarding funeral arrangements have not yet been released. 

Orrin Grant Hatch was born on March 22, 1934, in Homestead Park, Pennsylvania on the outskirts of Pittsburgh. 

His mother was a homemaker and his father was a union carpenter and plaster lather, who struggled to raise nine children in the aftermath of the Great Depression. 

Hatch also formed friendships across the aisle, particularly with the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy, seen left with him above at a hearing in 1981

Hatch also formed friendships across the aisle, particularly with the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy, seen left with him above at a hearing in 1981

President Ronald Reagan raises his arm with Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch during a rally in the 1980s

President Ronald Reagan raises his arm with Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch during a rally in the 1980s

President Reagan signed an extension of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, saying "the right to vote is the crown jewel of American liberties." In the background are (left to right) Rep. Robert Michel, Sen. Orrin Hatch, and Sen. Robert Dole.

President Reagan signed an extension of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, saying “the right to vote is the crown jewel of American liberties.” In the background are (left to right) Rep. Robert Michel, Sen. Orrin Hatch, and Sen. Robert Dole.

When Hatch was just ten years old, he was deeply impacted by the loss of his older brother, Jesse Hatch, who was killed in action in Europe during World War II.  

In high school, he played on the varsity basketball team, fought as an amateur boxer, and served as student body president. 

Hatch enrolled in Brigham Young University in 1952, paying his way through college by working as a janitor during the school year and as a journeyman lather in the summers. 

When he was nineteen years old, Hatch served a two-year mission for the Latter-Day Saints church in Ohio and Indiana, which he described as one of the most formative experiences of his life.

In 1957, after returning from his mission, Hatch married Elaine Hansen in the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City. The couple went on to have six children. 

Senators Orrin Hatch (left) and Bob Dole confer during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing regarding Billy Carter's dealings with Libya in July 1980

Senators Orrin Hatch (left) and Bob Dole confer during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing regarding Billy Carter’s dealings with Libya in July 1980

Hatch argues with other members of the Iran-Contra panel at the hearings in the 1980s

Hatch argues with other members of the Iran-Contra panel at the hearings in the 1980s

Hatch speaking at a Press Conference after the meeting at the White House in 1986

Hatch speaking at a Press Conference after the meeting at the White House in 1986

Hatch graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history from BYU and won a full honors scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh Law School, where he earned his law degree with honors in 1962.

After spending several years as a trial lawyer in Pittsburgh, Hatch moved to Utah in 1969 and continued to practice law. 

At the urging of friends, he first ran for public office in 1976, when he filed to run for the United States Senate against three-term Democratic Senator Frank Moss. 

Although he was virtually unknown, Hatch overcame the odds to win the election, commencing one of the most prolific tenures in modern Senate history.

Hatch served in the Senate for 42 years, making him the longest serving Republican in Senate history.

Hatch (right) is seen with Joe Biden and lawyer Deval Patrick, and Senator Orrin Hatch prior to Patrick's confirmation hearing as assistant AG for civil rights in 1994

Hatch (right) is seen with Joe Biden and lawyer Deval Patrick, and Senator Orrin Hatch prior to Patrick’s confirmation hearing as assistant AG for civil rights in 1994

Orrin Hatch (right) is seen with Ted Kennedy (second from right) and Joe Biden (left) as well as several South American diplomats at a narcotics hearing in 1990

Orrin Hatch (right) is seen with Ted Kennedy (second from right) and Joe Biden (left) as well as several South American diplomats at a narcotics hearing in 1990

He was one of only a few Senators in history to serve as Chairman of three major Senate Committees: the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee (now called the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee), the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the Senate Finance Committee. 

In total, Hatch spent 32 of his 42 years in Congress as either the Chairman or Ranking Member of a major committee. 

Hatch authored or coauthored a number of key laws, including the the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities. 

He also helped craft laws protecting religious freedom, reforming the generic drug industry, and providing health care for uninsured children from low-income families.

Senators Edward Kennedy,D-Mass., and Orrin Hatch,R-Utah, introduce the Hatch-Kennedy Children's Insurance Bill during a press conference in 1996

Senators Edward Kennedy,D-Mass., and Orrin Hatch,R-Utah, introduce the Hatch-Kennedy Children’s Insurance Bill during a press conference in 1996

Senator Orrin Hatch prepares before a Senate Finance Committee hearing in 2018

Senator Orrin Hatch prepares before a Senate Finance Committee hearing in 2018

A stanch conservative, he fought to get conservative judges confirmed to the federal courts, and took a leading role in Justice Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

His fiscal hawkishness earned him the nickname ‘Mr. Balanced Budget’ from President Ronald Reagan. 

At the end of his term in January 2019, Hatch was the ninth-longest-serving US Senator in American history. 

On November 16, 2018, President Donald Trump awarded Hatch with the highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

‘Senator Orrin G. Hatch personified the American Dream,’ said Matt Sandgren, Executive Director of the Hatch Foundation in a statement.

He added: ‘Senator Hatch touched the hearts of countless individuals, and I know I speak for all of them when I say he will be dearly missed.’

Orrin G. Hatch, who became the longest-serving Republican senator in history as he represented Utah for more than four decades, died Saturday at age 88

Orrin G. Hatch, who became the longest-serving Republican senator in history as he represented Utah for more than four decades, died Saturday at age 88


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