Former US Senator from PA, Harris Wofford, passes away at 92

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Former U.S. Sen. Harris Wofford of Pennsylvania, a civil rights activist who staged an upset Senate win in 1991, has died. He was 92.

Wofford died late Monday night of complications from a fall in his Washington, D.C., apartment, his son, Daniel Wofford, said.

Wofford had joined the Senate in 1991, appointed to fill the Senate vacancy created by the death of Republican John Heinz. He then pulled off a surprise victory in a special election to complete the Senate term. But Wofford lost his 1994 bid for a full term.

After his stint in the Senate, he headed President Bill Clinton’s domestic volunteer program. Wofford’s activism in civil rights dated to the 1950s and he was a confidant of Martin Luther King Jr.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale today issued the following statement mourning the death of Harris Wofford:

“We’ve lost a true leader with the passing of Harris Wofford, who dedicated his life and career to helping others, starting as a student activist in high school.

Wofford, who was strongly committed to advancing civil rights and marched with Dr. King in Selma, helped to launch the Peace Corps and worked in the Kennedy administration.   

He served as Pennsylvania’s secretary of Labor & Industry under Gov. Bob Casey and went on to represent Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate, where he worked to improve access to health care for all.

Harris Wofford never stopped fighting to make American society more just and we are deeply indebted to his decades of public service. I offer my sincere condolences to his family.”

Senator Bob Casey has also made a statement regarding Senator Wofford:

“Harris Wofford was a champion of justice and a man of uncommon courage who dedicated his life to service. From his work on the Civil Rights Commission in the 1950s, to his work as Special Assistant to President Kennedy for Civil Rights and through his friendship with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, few Americans are more responsible for advancing the cause of civil rights than Harris Wofford.

Harris stood with Dr. King during difficult times and never wavered in his enduring belief in civil rights.

He worked with Sargent Shriver to found the Peace Corps, improving the lives of countless vulnerable people throughout the world.

Harris met my father in the 1950s when they were young lawyers. They enjoyed a long friendship. My family appreciated Harris’ support for Governor Casey over many campaigns and his service as U.S. Senator and as Secretary of the Department of Labor and Industry for our Commonwealth.

In addition to his national service in the Senate and on civil rights, Harris served his country in the United States Army Air Corps. It’s only fitting that Harris passed away on the national day of service he helped to bring into existence.”

Governor Tom Ridge adds his comments on the former senator as well:

“Michele and I send our deepest sympathies to the family of Harris Wofford. I long admired Sen. Wofford for his unwavering and lifelong commitment to civil rights, and a record of public service with unblemished character and humility. He served Pennsylvania and our nation with distinction.” 

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