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Former Sen. Richard Lugar’s funeral honors statesman’s midwest values, character


Vice President Mike Pence stands in front of former Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar's casket May 15 in St. Luke’s United Methodist Church. “Richard Lugar lived a great American life,” he said. Alex Deryn

INDIANAPOLIS — Former Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar was honored in a funeral service Wednesday that brought several leaders from Washington to praise the accomplished statesman’s character.

The service at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, which Lugar’s family helped found, concluded a two-day tribute that began at the Indiana Statehouse Tuesday. Lugar died April 28 of complications from chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, a neurological disorder. He was 87.

Vice President Mike Pence, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Indiana Sens. Todd Young and Mike Braun were among the Washington figures who paid respects.

"Richard Lugar lived a great American life,” Pence said.

Tributes from men Lugar worked beside recognized most of the room was likely familiar with his landmark political achievements. They celebrated Lugar’s Hoosier values, passion for running and Eagle Scout beginnings that shaped his reputation for bipartisan cooperation.   

“It was the way he led his life I always wished I could emulate,” former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said.

Lugar was born in Indianapolis. He was mayor of his hometown from 1968 to 1975 before serving six terms as a U.S. Senator, the longest for a Congress member from Indiana.

His close connections to the state continued throughout his life. Lugar taught at IU since 2013, and in fall 2018 the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies was renamed in his and former Indiana Rep. Lee Hamilton’s honor.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell attributed Lugar’s success to his Indiana upbringing. He remembered Lugar as gracious, generous and polite — a man for whom a new argyle sweater meant “jazzing things up.”

Former Democratic Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn described viewing Lugar as bold and strategic throughout their diplomatic visits together. Nunn and Lugar crafted the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, known as the Nunn-Lugar Program, to dismantle weapons of mass destruction after the Soviet Union collapsed.

Nunn said Lugar displayed a brand of cooperation often misunderstood in politics today. Lugar saw he could work across party lines without compromising his principles.

“He looked carefully at the facts, and he let the facts lead him to his conclusions,” Nunn said.

Pence called Lugar a “true American statesman” who never stopped running, referencing both Lugar’s passion and extensive career.

Lugar started as an Eagle Scout, ranked first in his class at Denison University in Ohio and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University before serving in public office.

Pence commended Lugar’s work during his time as mayor to transform Indianapolis from “Indiana-no-place” to a dynamic capital city.

He called Lugar’s death, which came about a month after the death of former Indiana Sen. Birch Bayh, an end of an era.

“His intellect and backbone were paired with a modesty and kindness not always associated with politics,” he said.

Lugar is survived by his wife Char, four sons, 13 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.

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