Richard Lugar set a record as the longest-serving U.S. senator in Indiana history, yet his career can be summed up in a single word: visionary.
During 50 years in Indiana politics, his chief concern was never the next election but the next generation and the common good.
In the end, his devotion to the right thing instead of the popular thing cost him re-election. It’s also why his departure from the Senate is generating kudos from around the world.
Beginning with his first term in office on the Indianapolis Public Schools board, Lugar was ahead of his time. From 1964-67, he pushed unsuccessfully for voluntary school desegregation. When he ran for board president in 1966, he lost 4-3 and assumed his political career was done.
Desegregation came to Indianapolis a few years later by order of a federal court.
As Indianapolis mayor, Lugar guided the controversial merger of city and county into a political entity called Uni-Gov. He managed to quietly convince key decision makers in the business community and legislature that it was essential for the city’s tax base. Uni-Gov saved the inner city from the effects of suburban flight while other cities crumbled.