Barack Obama and Bipartisan Lawmakers Pay Tribute to Former Senator Richard Lugar

Former Indiana Senator Richard Lugar died on Sunday morning in Virginia at the age of 87 after a short illness. The announcement of his death has drawn an outpour of support and tributes from bipartisan political figures, including former President Barack Obama, Vice President Mike Pence and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Lugar served for 36 years in the Senate between 1977 to 2013, during which he became one of the most influential voices on foreign policy in the Republican Party over his pursuit of nuclear non-proliferation. Lugar was ousted in the 2012 GOP primary by ex-Indiana treasurer and Tea Party Republican Richard Mourdock.

Former President Barack Obama (D), who served in Capitol Hill alongside Lugar for four years, issued a lengthy statement honoring the longtime senator, who helped boost his foreign relations experience during his early years in office.

"We held different political beliefs, but traveling overseas together, he took me under his wing as we toured munitions storage facilities and talked over meals of borscht," Obama said in a statement posted to Twitter. "In Dick, I saw someone who wasn't a Republican or Democrat first, but a problem-solver — an example of the impact a public servant can make by eschewing partisan divisiveness to instead focus on common ground."

Vice President Mike Pence (R) praised the former senator's countless "contributions to the life of our nation."

"Richard Lugar was a leader not only in the Senate but also on the world stage, where he worked tirelessly to bring pressure to end apartheid in South Africa and enforce treaties that destroyed Soviet weapons of mass destruction," the former Indiana governor said. "As the longest-serving member of Congress from Indiana, and a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, he leaves behind a legacy of public service that will inspire Hoosiers for generations."

South Bend, Indiana Mayor and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg called Lugar a "true statesman."

"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. "He was never too important to make time for a young Hoosier public servant of either party. And I have never seen a Senator's office so filled with books."

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb (R) deemed Lugar a "faithful servant" and confirmed that flags across the state will be lowered to half-staff in honor of his life and contributions to America.

"The world weeps alongside Indiana after just learning we lost one of our best, ever," he said. "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."

Indiana Senator Todd Young (R) called Lugar "a boss, a mentor, and a person" who "helped save the world" with his work in diffusing nuclear proliferation.

"He leaves a legacy as an exemplar of wisdom, civility, and bipartisanship," he added. "Always staying true to his temperament, he was a quiet, dignified statesman. 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. May God watch over him and his family."

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett (D) said Lugar's career will be "rightfully characterized by his time in the United States Senate and his outstanding leadership on matters of foreign security and international diplomacy."

In a statement, the Lugar Center confirmed that Lugar passed away on Sunday morning from complications related to his chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, an uncommon neurological disorder. He served twice as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee while in office.

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US President Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to former senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House on November 20, 2013 in Washington, DC. Obama and bipartisan lawmakers paid tribute to Lugar on Sunday, after the former senator passed away at the age of 87. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Barack Obama and Bipartisan Lawmakers Pay Tribute to Former Senator Richard Lugar | U.S.