Former US Senator Jim Jeffords Passes Away

By Joe Gullo

Published 08/18 2014 11:44AM

Updated 08/18 2014 02:57PM

Credit: United States Senate Historical Office
WASHINGTON - Former Vermont U.S. Senator Jim Jeffords has passed away. He was 80 years old.

Senator Jeffords spent 32 years in Congress. First elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1974, he retired in 2006 after serving his third term as a U.S. Senator.

According to a press release, Senator Jeffords became a household name and earned a spot in Senate history in 2001 when he left the Republican Party, creating a Democratic majority  in the Senate.

Local Reaction

President Barack Obama:

"Michelle and I send our deepest sympathies to the family of Senator James M. Jeffords on his passing.  Jim devoted his life to service - as a Naval officer, a local leader in his hometown of Shrewsbury, and eventually as a U.S. Senator representing his beloved Vermont.  During his more than 30 years in Washington, Jim never lost the fiercely independent spirit that made Vermonters, and people across America, trust and respect him.  Whatever the issue - whether it was protecting the environment, supporting Americans with disabilities, or whether to authorize the war in Iraq - Jim voted his principles, even if it sometimes meant taking a lonely or unpopular stance.  Vermonters sent him to Washington to follow his conscience, and he did them proud.
Our prayers are with the Jeffords family, including his son Leonard and daughter Laura.  And we’re grateful to Jim for his legacy of service to Vermont and the United States of America."

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin:
“I join Vermonters and citizens nationwide today in celebrating the life of Jim Jeffords, a true gentleman and an independent-minded maverick in the best tradition of our state. Jim followed in the footsteps of Senators Bob Stafford and George Aiken, always putting the interests of Vermonters and the nation ahead of partisan politics. He followed his sense of right in all that he did, and was never afraid to seek compromise by reaching across the aisle for the good of our country.  Jim’s contribution to Vermont spanned his service in the Vermont House, as Attorney General, and as Vermont’s Representative in the U.S. House, where he developed his passion for high quality public education that forged his policy work on behalf of our kids and continued throughout his career. The passing of Senator Jim Jeffords will be felt throughout Vermont and our country.  We need more like Senator Jeffords.  My heart goes out to his children and extended family.”

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.):

"He was a partner in our work for Vermont, and he was a friend. He was a Vermonter through and through, drawn to political life to make a difference for our state and nation. Part of his legacy will also stand as an enduring chapter of the Senate's history."

U.S. Representative Peter Welch (D-Vt.):

"I know I share the view of all Vermonters today in expressing condolences to the family of Senator Jim Jeffords on his passing, and our gratitude to him for his life of service.

While Jim would certainly wave away the notion, he was indeed a legend in Vermont and the nation.  With characteristic decency, humility and civility, and a dogged persistence, he made his mark in Congress.  Millions of children with disabilities are better off today because he lead the charge for their equal access to education.  Americans are breathing cleaner air and drinking cleaner water because of his fierce advocacy for the environment and clean energy.  And budding artists across the nation receive the boost of his encouragement every year thanks to his legacy as the founder of the annual Congressional Arts Competition.
And, in 2001, the world saw what his fellow Vermonters already knew:  Jim Jeffords, above all, had the courage of his convictions.

Jim and his wife, Liz Daley Jeffords, were mentors to me in my early days in the House of Representatives.  I am deeply grateful to them both for their friendship, their support and their contributions to Vermont and our country."

Lt. Governor Phil Scott:

“The story of Vermont politics cannot be told without Jim Jeffords. He served in the most honorable way a person can serve: Selflessly, and always with the best interests of others at heart. He did what he felt was right, not what he felt would make him popular. Whether it was during his time in the Vermont Senate, or as Attorney General, or in the United States House of Representatives, or in the United States Senate, Jim valued the voices of Vermonters and leaves a legacy we can all learn from: Respect over rhetoric, pragmatism over pandering, and love for Vermonters overall.

“In our large, and largely faceless, system of government, he demonstrated the power that one person speaking for their constituents can have. His example of moderation and independence is what I’ve tried to model my own career off of. My sincere condolences go out to Laura, Leonard, and the entire Jeffords family.”

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.):

“Jane and I join all Vermonters in sending condolences to the family of Jim Jeffords.  Jim was one of the most popular elected officials in the modern history of the state - serving at the local, state and federal levels.  Vermonters admired him because of his low-key and down-to-earth qualities, and because of his obvious and strong love of the state and the Vermont way of life.  He was an effective champion of education, disability rights, the environment and the arts - and millions of Americans have benefited from his efforts.  In 2001, he displayed enormous courage by leaving a party that, he often said, had left him because of its dramatic move to the right.  Jim was a friend and he will be sorely missed.”

Vermont Republican Party:

"U.S. Senator James Jeffords was a true Vermonter who always put his constituents and the needs of Vermonters first.  For 40 years he served his state with great distinction and a fiery independence that Vermonters cherished.

From his early days as a state senator from Rutland County to his retirement from the U.S. Senate in 2006, he was known and respected as a strong and principled leader.

Never one to be confined by political party lines, Sen. Jeffords personified the spirit of Vermont and will be sorely missed.
The Vermont Republican Party sends its condolences to the family of Senator Jeffords along with our thanks for his decades of dedicated service to our state."

Vermont Democratic Party:

“On behalf of the Vermont Democratic Party, we mourn the loss of Senator James Jeffords and reflect on his legacy of bettering our state. His service to Vermont and country will go down in history for many reasons, including when he notably stood up to partisanship and fought for what he believed was in the best interests of Vermonters.
His dedication to education, the arts, and our environment made him a great champion for his constituents and we are, and will continue to be, extremely thankful for his service. Our thoughts are with his family, friends, and colleagues at this time.”

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