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Former Pa. governor, presidential candidate William Scranton dies

By 69 News & Associated Press, (follow: @69news), news@wfmz.com
Published On: Jul 29 2013 12:02:35 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 29 2013 12:45:48 PM CDT

In this July 5, 1964, file photo, then-Pennsylvania Gov. William Scranton Jr. speaks to hometown well-wishers at the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Airport in Scranton, Pa. Scranton, former Pennsylvania governor, presidential candidate and ambassador to the United Nations, died Sunday, July 28, 2013. He was 96.

HARRISBURG, Pa. -

William Warren Scranton, a former Pennsylvania governor, presidential candidate and ambassador to the United Nations, has died. He was 96.

Scranton died of a cerebral hemorrhage Sunday night at a retirement community in Montecito, Calif., where he lived with his wife, a family spokesman said Monday.

Scranton, a progressive Republican from the northeastern Pennsylvania city named after his wealthy family, was elected to Congress in 1960.

He served one term before he was elected as Pennsylvania's 38th governor in 1962.

His foray into presidential politics occurred in 1964, during his one term as governor, when he emerged as a moderately liberal alternative to conservative Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater after New York Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller dropped out of the race.

Scranton, who committed to the race barely a month before the national convention in San Francisco, lost the Republican nomination to Goldwater by a 4-1 margin after a hoped-for endorsement from former President Dwight D. Eisenhower failed to materialize.

In the general election, Goldwater lost to President Lyndon B. Johnson by a landslide. "It is impossible to consider the short-lived Scranton campaign as a serious exercise in politics; but as an exercise in gallantry it may have saved the soul of the Republican Party," Theodore H. White wrote in his book, "The Making of the President, 1964."

A popular governor who was skilled in public relations, Scranton took advantage of a strong economy to reform the Pennsylvania Civil Service, double spending on education and increase the state sales tax from 4 percent to 5 percent.

State spending increased by 38 percent during his administration. Scranton, whose ancestors established vast holdings in iron, coal and railroads during the 19th century, was appointed ambassador to the United Nations in 1976 by President Gerald Ford. He served about 10 months in the post.

Although Scranton and his wife, Mary, spent much of their time in California in recent years, they also have a home in Waverly, in Lackawanna County., near Scranton.

They have four children. The oldest of their three sons, Bill Scranton, served as lieutenant governor under Gov. Dick Thornburgh for eight years.

The younger Scranton ran for governor in 1986 but lost to Democrat Robert P. Casey. He ran again in 2006 but dropped out of the primary race amid growing support for former Pittsburgh Steelers star Lynn Swann, who won the Republican nod but lost the general election to Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell.

Reactions to Scranton's death

-- U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) Monday released the following statement on the passing of former Pennsylvania Governor Bill Scranton: "Kris and I send our prayers to the family of former Governor Bill Scranton. From the time he left Yale Law School to enlist in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II, to his service as Ambassador to the United Nations, his was a life dedicated to the service of our great commonwealth and our country."

-- U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA): “Today we pause to remember the life of an extraordinary public servant, Governor William W. Scranton. Governor Scranton served his home area, our Commonwealth and our country with distinction and with honor. As a Congressman and as Governor, he prioritized education, economic development and job creation. When he left office after four years as Governor, Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate was one of the lowest ever. Long after he left public office, he continued to devote his considerable skills and energy to helping and promoting Northeastern Pennsylvania and serving the nation in significant appointments that focused on difficult domestic and international issues, including service as UN Ambassador. On behalf of my wife Terese, my mother and the entire Casey family, I extend condolences to Mrs. Scranton, Lieutenant Governor Scranton, Susan, Peter and Joseph."

-- A. Carville "Peck" Foster, former York County Republican Committee chairman and former state lawmaker: "I was tremendously impressed with Bill Scranton. I consider him one of the finest statesmen that Pennsylvania has produced in my time," Foster said. "He was an excellent governor. And it was really a pleasure to be associated with him. He was truly a man of the people."

Foster, 80, of Springfield Township, recalled a York County Republican dinner where Scranton came. It would have been standard for a prominent person like him to walk through the hall, stop at tables and shake hands. Scranton took it a step further, Foster said.

"Bill Scranton and his wife went through the kitchens and greeted the people back there who were preparing the food," Foster said. "And I think everybody was impressed with that."

Foster served in the state House after Scranton was governor. He said Scranton left the state in good financial shape.

"He was frugal in his spending," Foster said. "...He was very much interested in building a better business climate in Pennsylvania."

-- Republican Party of Pennsylvania Chairman Rob Gleason: “Today, we mourn the loss of one of Pennsylvania’s great leaders. Bill Scranton, a veteran, U.S. Congressman, Pennsylvania Governor, presidential candidate and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, was a dedicated public servant and a national figure in American politics. Following his retirement, Governor Scranton remained an important figure to the people of Pennsylvania and we cherish his contributions to our Commonwealth and country. We extend our deepest sympathies to Governor Scranton’s family, and our heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with them.”

-- The York County Republican Committee posted a statement on its Facebook page: "All of us at York County Republican Headquarters are saddened to learn of the passing of former Pennsylvania Governor Bill Scranton, Jr. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Scranton family today."

Governor Tom Corbett Monday ordered all Pennsylvania flags lowered to half-staff in honor of Scranton.

“Governor Scranton was a world-class leader in government. He will be remembered as a man of humility, honesty, dignity and integrity,’’ Corbett said.

“Susan and I mourn the passing of this distinguished man and offer our sincerest condolences to his wife, Mary, and his family. We will always be grateful for Governor Scranton’s service and the legacy he left our great commonwealth,’’ Corbett said.

Flags will remain at half-staff until sunset on the day of Scranton's funeral. Service arrangements for the former governor are pending.

All Pennsylvanians are invited to join in this tribute.