John Culver dies his family announced Thursday, He was 86.
Culver died Wednesday at his home in Washington, D.C., according to Seth Andersen, director of the John C. Culver Public Policy Center at Simpson College in Indianola. Anderson said he confirmed the death with Culver’s wife of 34 years, Mary Jane Checchi.
No additional information was provided about the cause of death.
Culver’s tenure in Congress began with his 1964 election to the U.S. House of Representatives. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1974 but lost re-election six years later to Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley.
Culver’s family said in his obituary that the former senator and congressman was most proud of his reputation for “integrity and courage.”
His son Chet Culver, who served as Iowa governor from 2007 until early 2011, said in a statement that his father “was a man of remarkable character.”
“He was courageous and compassionate. He lived his life thankful for the opportunity to serve, and he taught me the importance of service to others,” the younger Culver said.
In 1967, while John Culver was in his second term in the House, he voted against making it a federal crime to burn the American flag.
Years later, in a speech at Harvard University, the congressman said that though he found flag-burning “distasteful,” it was protected speech under the U.S. Constitution. The vote came amid protests over the Vietnam War.
“I voted a lonely ‘no’ and only 15 congressmen out of 435 shared my position on the final roll call,” Culver said in the speech, according to his family. He called it “the most important vote I ever cast.”
“It taught me a valuable lesson: Do what one believes is right, rather than popular at the moment,” he added. “In my experience, such a practice is not only good for the soul but will most likely ultimately be accepted and respected by the electorate and one’s colleagues.”
Years later, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down flag desecration laws as unconstitutional.
Remembrances poured in Thursday as news spread of Culver’s death. Former President Bill Clinton tweeted, “Sen. John Culver was a smart, principled, progressive and tough public servant who represented his constituents with honor for 16 years. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and the people of Iowa.”
Grassley said he would never forget Culver’s “grace and good wishes” after the Republican defeated him.
“He was proud of his record and defended it, not sacrificing his stands for political expediency, and that deserves to be recognized,” Grassley said.
John Chester Culver was born Aug. 8, 1932, in Rochester, Minnesota, but he was raised in Cedar Rapids. After graduating from Franklin High School, he attended Harvard College and earned a degree in 1954.
He served for more than three years as an infantry officer in the U.S. Marine Corps before returning to Harvard to earn a law degree.
After his time in Congress, Culver joined a Washington, D.C., firm and practiced law until December 2009. At the time, his son was in the midst of his four-year term as Iowa governor.
Chet Culver, also a Democrat, lost re-election in 2010 to former Republican Gov. Terry Branstad.
John Culver received multiple accolades after he left elected office, including a scholarship named after him at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
The Simpson College center named after him was established in 2010 and is dedicated to civic engagement and public service.
Culver’s academic roles included teaching at multiple universities. He also co-authored a book on Henry A. Wallace, the former vice president and agriculture secretary from Iowa.
Along with his wife and his son, Chet, Culver is survived by his sister, Katherine Baty; four other children; and eight grandchildren.
Culver will be buried in McGregor, Iowa. Additional information about funeral services was not immediately available.