INDIANAPOLIS — Republican and Democratic leaders, in Indiana and beyond, set aside the divisive and bitter partisanship that defines this era to remember and pay tribute Sunday to one of the few American politicians regarded as a true statesman by both sides of the aisle.
The death of former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., unleashed a torrent of praise for his accomplishments as the two-term mayor of Indianapolis, six-term U.S. senator, foe of nuclear weapons proliferation and champion of good government causes, including the need for greater bipartisanship in Congress.
But for many Indiana leaders it was the personal relationships they built with Lugar, and often the work they did alongside him, during Lugar's lifetime of service to the Hoosier State and the nation that made his loss so deeply felt.
Lugar died at 12:44 a.m. Region time of chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, a rare neurotic disorder, at the Inova Fairfax Heart and Vascular Institute in Virginia. His wife, Charlene, and his four sons, Mark, Bob, John and David, and their families were with him during his time at the hospital
Gov. Eric Holcomb seemed to speak for many Hoosiers when he proclaimed following Lugar's death that Indiana has lost "one of our best, ever."
"As an always-faithful servant to the highest ideals in every walk of his incredible life, Richard Lugar ran the family farm, charted a new innovative course for Indiana's capital city, and devoted a record six terms as a U.S. Senator to making the world a more prosperous and peaceful place," Holcomb said.
An officer and a gentleman
"He was an officer and gentleman, father and faith leader, a mayor and senator, a diplomat and legendary role model to millions."
The governor ordered all flags across the state lowered to half-staff to honor Lugar until the day of his funeral, which has not yet been set.
Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, now president of Purdue University, worked for Lugar in the Indianapolis mayor's office, and spent more than a decade in the 1970s and 1980s as Lugar's Senate chief of staff.
"Words are hard to come by right now," Daniels said. "Dick Lugar was not just the finest public servant I will ever know, he was the finest person."
"He embodied all we can hope for in our leaders: brilliance of mind, purity of motive, stainless in character, tireless in the pursuit of duty. Incomparably knowledgeable about the world, he was first and always a patriot, utterly dedicated to the security and well-being of his fellow Americans."
"His voice is now silent, but he is still with us. Indianapolis is a thriving and vibrant city because of him. The world is safer from nuclear danger because of him. And so many of us, while falling far short of the standards he set, are vastly better people because of him."
That includes Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers, another member of Lugar's mayoral staff who followed him to Washington.
She said following Lugar's death that “nothing has had more of an impact on my life than the inspiration he provided.”
“There was no one like Dick Lugar, and it’s really hard to imagine the world without him. He never let us down — not the city, state, nation or world. The tributes will be pouring in and he deserves every one of them,” Lubbers said. “The sadness I’m experiencing is tempered by the gratitude all of us should feel for his life and selfless service.”
In 1990, Lubbers co-founded the Richard G. Lugar Excellence in Public Service Series that has trained more than 500 Republican women to be leaders in their communities and for the Hoosier State.
Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch said she wouldn't be where she is today, or have served in a county office, as a state representative or state auditor, without Lugar as a guide.
“Senator Lugar was an institution, a policymaker and true advocate for the state of Indiana. His work in Congress remains unparalleled,” Crouch said. “I first was inspired to enter politics in 1982, when I worked for him on his campaign trail. I know countless individuals who are in the leadership positions they are today, because of Senator Lugar.”
“I join the country in mourning the incredible loss we have incurred, along with his family. Indiana would not be the state it is without him, and we are forever in his debt.”
Celina Weatherwax, of Chesterton, president of McMillan Family Foundation Inc., also began her career working for Lugar as the senator's Northwest Indiana regional director for the final eight years of his record-setting tenure representing Indiana on Capitol Hill.
"Senator Lugar epitomized leadership in every sense of the definition," Weatherwax said. "Our world and our country are both safer because of his contributions and commitment to always serving others above himself."
'Helped save the world'
Lugar's political career came to an end in 2012 when he was defeated in a bitter Republican primary contest by State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who ended up losing to Democrat Joe Donnelly in that year's general election.
Lake County Republican Chairman Dan Dernulc was among the minority of Region Republicans who bucked the Mourdock trend and stood with Lugar amid unceasing personal attacks on his Indiana residency and willingness to work with Democrats for the good of the nation.
"He was a person that you could always rely on, not just as a conservative, but as a person that will look at bipartisan solutions, and I admired that," Dernulc said. "If you talk to anybody, Republican or Democrat, they will always think of him as a great statesman."
Michael Simpson, chairman of the Porter County Republican Party, said he also supported Lugar over Mourdock in the senator's final election.
"We've lost a favorite son of Indiana, a great statesman and a great senator who served us for 36 years, very well and honorably," Simpson said. "I'm proud to have known him and called him my U.S. senator."
Demonstrating his ongoing commitment to bipartisanship, Lugar stood beside Donnelly in 2013 as the Democrat took his oath of office in the Senate chamber and took over the seat Lugar held for 36 years.
“I am personally crushed by this loss as he was a hero and mentor to me, and I always tried to live up to his example in the United States Senate,” Donnelly said.
“He was an amazing husband and dad, mayor and senator and a proud sailor in the U.S. Navy. We can all learn from the example of this extraordinary American."
"Fair seas on your journey ahead, my dear friend. I know God is holding you in the palm of his hand.”
U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., the man who last year defeated Donnelly to win Lugar's Senate seat, described his GOP predecessor as "a towering figure in Hoosier history and one of the greatest statesmen ever to serve in the U.S. Senate."
"As our longest-serving senator, he worked tirelessly with leaders across the globe to better the state and the country he loved," Braun said. "Maureen and I are praying for the Lugar family in this difficult time."
U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., a Marine veteran who served in the post-Cold War era, said Lugar's work to eliminate nuclear weapons from the countries of the former Soviet Union and to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction elsewhere literally "helped save the world."
"He leaves a legacy as an exemplar of wisdom, civility and bipartisanship. Always staying true to his temperament, he was a quiet, dignified statesman," Young said.
"He thought before he spoke. He emphasized substance over personality. In short, he set the bar for public leaders — and for leaders more generally. I’m not sure we will ever see another Richard Lugar, but I pray that we do."
U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who represented Indiana in the Senate alongside Lugar for 12 years, said it was an honor to serve with him and to call him a friend.
"Senator Richard Lugar was a true statesman whose decency and commitment to public service represented the very best of our state of Indiana and the nation," Coats said.
"As both mayor and senator, he demonstrated a unique ability to bring people together and forge coalitions to accomplish big things, particularly in foreign policy."
'Diplomacy can break down any wall'
Hoosier Democrats likewise acknowledged Lugar's death as a tremendous blow for the state, for the nation and for the world.
"Indiana has lost a leading diplomat, a man who steadfastly believed in the power of dialogue and bipartisanship," said John Zody, Indiana Democratic Party chairman.
"Richard Lugar's achievements were grounded in a clear-eyed approach that valued facts over rhetoric. His voice was never the loudest but his word meant something. Ultimately, his resolve and integrity made the world a safer place and is proof diplomacy can break down any wall."
Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who, like Lugar, was a Rhodes scholar, served in the Navy, was elected mayor of a major Indiana city and ran for president, said Lugar “was never too important to make time for a young Hoosier public servant of either party.”
“America has lost a true statesman in Dick Lugar. A great mayor, senator, and mentor, he made the world safer, stood up for better foreign policy, and knew how to work across the aisle,” Buttigieg said. “And I have never seen a senator’s office so filled with books.”
Two-time Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former Indiana House Speaker John Gregg recalled inviting Lugar to address the House Democrats in 1999, and Lugar happily accepted.
“Senator Lugar arrived at my office and spoke with our leaders for a few minutes before all of the House Democrats gathered for a once-in-a-lifetime meeting with America's expert on foreign policy,” Gregg said.
“It was before Sept. 11, 2001, but he was talking about the dangers of terrorism, nuclear weapons and rogue governments. It was like sitting in a college class listening to this brilliant man converse about international events in everyday language.”
“It was one of the highlights of my legislative and public service career. Senator Lugar, we are safer and stronger as a country because of your services.”
Indiana Republican Party Chairman Kyle Hupfer similarly credited Lugar for having dedicated his life "to making the world a better a place."
"As a U.S. senator, Richard Lugar reduced the threat of nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union through the Nunn-Lugar Act. His leadership in foreign relations was unparalleled," Hupfer said.
"Outside the Senate, Richard Lugar is also responsible for inspiring generations of Hoosier and American leaders who follow him. Through it all, Richard Lugar led with a humble spirit that represented our state and our people with honor. He was a farmer, a mayor, a senator, a visionary, a leader, but most importantly, a Hoosier."
Vice President Mike Pence, a former Indiana governor, added that Lugar “leaves behind a legacy of public service that will inspire Hoosiers for generations.”
Continuing to serve
Following his Senate career, Lugar launched the Lugar Center think tank, which perhaps is best known for its annual rankings of congressional bipartisanship, based on how often a member of Congress files legislation that attracts co-sponsors from the other political party and how often the member signs onto proposals submitted by a lawmaker across the aisle.
Donnelly and Young, inspired by Lugar's example, routinely rank among the most bipartisan senators.
But being out of office also enabled Lugar — and Hoosiers — to take stock of his myriad accomplishments.
In 2013, The Times Media Co. presented Lugar a lifetime achievement award from the Northwest Indiana Business and Industry Hall of Fame.
At the awards ceremony in Merrillville, Lugar attributed his four decades of negotiating success with national and international leaders in part to the skills he learned on his earliest campaign trips to Northwest Indiana.
"One of the things that came from visiting here in Northwest Indiana, and especially I think in Lake County, was a sense that I found people who frequently did not have the same personal point-of-view; many persons had very diverse ideas," Lugar said.
Despite those differences, Lugar said he always sought to find ways to work with Region Democrats, including former Gary Mayor Richard Hatcher and U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Gary, on projects that could improve the lives of Hoosiers.
Lugar said meeting with people on their terms and then finding ways to bring different people together is what makes a good leader.
"I learned by going into the steel mills an education all by itself as to what was going on up here," Lugar said.
Visclosky said Sunday that the interest in getting things done for Hoosiers was mutual.
"Senator Lugar never failed in his capacity to encourage thoughtfulness and respect for all people as he worked tirelessly to improve the economic lives of the people he represented and to secure a less violent and more peaceful world for every person on our planet," Visclosky said.
"His work on nuclear non-proliferation is without peer and we are all safer because Dick Lugar walked among us. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this difficult time."
Lugar also teamed up in 2015 with former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., to advocate for greater civility in politics, with government action based on respect within and between political parties that's focused on problem-solving over point-scoring.
"There are moments in the history of our country...in which it is very important to have respect, to have courtesy, to understand that somebody else may have a different point of view," Lugar said. "It may, as a matter of fact, save your life and the lives of your family and your country.
'Cannot bomb our way to security'
Lugar expanded on that theme one year later at the inaugural Lugar Symposium at Ohio's Denison University, his alma mater, where he said, despite living in anti-establishment times, there is an urgent need to return to "establishment values" — civility, experience, studiousness and compromise — not least because they have served the nation well for more than 200 years.
"They are American virtues, because they are necessary for the orderly and productive operation of our Constitution, and they have been tested by generations of Americans who found that good governance depends on them," Lugar said.
"A reading of constitutional-era literature underscores how much the framers valued compromise among well-informed, experienced leaders who would work with each other in a civil framework of laws."
More recently, Lugar warned that President Donald Trump's foreign policy actions have been "an exercise in squandering America's international leverage."
He said Trump's focus on building a wall on the Mexican border, extracting additional payments from European military allies, threatening to tear up longstanding trade agreements, pledging to deport undocumented immigrants and cutting funds for diplomacy are not the kinds of policies that preserve America's place in the world.
"These are goals that normally would be associated with a selfish, inward looking nation that is being motivated by fear, not a great superpower with the capacity to shape global affairs," Lugar said.
"One of the ironies of this is that a president who campaigned on his ability to achieve grandiose results is offering a vision that is so lacking in ambition and so devoid of American heroism."
Lugar said Trump needs to understand that the history of this century shows military force alone cannot substitute for other types of geopolitical leverage, such as international alliances, trade relationships and robust diplomacy — all things Trump has vowed to cut or eliminate.
"We cannot bomb our way to security," Lugar said. "If strong and comprehensive American leadership is withdrawn from the global stage, broader efforts at conflict prevention will fail."
"The people of the United States and most countries of the world will become poorer and will have to endure more frequent conflict. Solutions to threats that impact us all, including climate change, extreme poverty and hunger, communicable diseases, nuclear proliferation, cyberwarfare and terrorism will be almost impossible to solve."
Nevertheless, Lugar insisted that he remained optimistic about America's future due to its strong institutions and resilient Constitution, both of which he said are powerful examples to other nations, and, in turn, help preserve American security.
"The United States has been and still is a force for good in the world. I believe this is indisputable from any objective point of view," Lugar said.
"But it has to be maintained. Once it is gone, it is very difficult to retrieve. Other power structures will occupy the void, and many of them are not sympathetic to American values and interests."