U.S. Senator John W. Warner died at his home in Alexandria on Tuesday night surrounded by family. He was 94.
Warner served five terms in the Senate starting in 1978 until announcing he wouldn't run for re-election in 2008. He was a former secretary of the Navy and was married to actress Elizabeth Taylor, from 1976 to 1982.
Though a Republican, Warner had an independent streak, endorsing Democrat Hillary Clinton for president for president in 2016. U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, Clinton's running mate, said Warner's death leaves a "big hole" in his life.
"Virginia has lost an unmatched leader, and my family has lost a dear friend," he said in a statement.
“John Warner and my father-in-law, Linwood Holton, interrupted their college studies to join the Navy during World War II. Each served in the Pacific theatre, and they met when they returned to Washington and Lee at the close of the war, Kaine said. "Their fraternity brother days started a friendship that lasted 75 years. Lin and John worked together, built the Virginia Republican Party from irrelevance into a formidable force, competed against one another in the 1978 Virginia Senate race, and always found time for new projects and humorous reminiscence.
“When I married Anne in 1984, I entered the large circle of John’s friends. From his thirty-year post in the Senate, he helped me as Mayor and Governor again and again. In particular, I will never forget his advocacy that helped save the Metro Silver Line from the brink of extinction. His advice on matters large and small (mostly solicited but occasionally offered even though I hadn’t asked!) was always farsighted, patriotic, and delivered in pithy and memorable phrases."
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), called John Warner a "consummate statesman and a public servant who always put Virginia before politics; who put the nation’s security before partisanship; who put the country’s needs above his own. "
“John Warner and I ran against each other back in 1996. I’ve often said since that the right Warner won that race. And one way that I know that is that even though we came from different political parties – even though we ran spirited, albeit respectful, campaigns that year – as soon as the election was called, it was over," he said in a statement. "And even though John Warner was already a towering institution in Virginia politics, and I was just some young upstart, he allowed me to become his friend. I felt then, as I do today, incredibly privileged."
Gov. Ralph Northam has ordered the Virginia state flag be flown at half-staff over the Virginia Capitol on the day of Warner's funeral.
“Virginia, and America, have lost a giant," he said in a statement. "As a sailor, a senator, a statesman, and a gentleman, former U.S. Senator John Warner spent his life in public service. A World War II veteran of the Navy, he served as Secretary of the Navy, led the Senate Armed Services Committee, and was a respected voice in Washington on military affairs. John Warner truly was the best of what public service and elected leadership should be, and his loss leaves a deep void. Pam and I join the Commonwealth in mourning his death. Our prayers for comfort go out to his wife Jeanne, his three children, grandchildren, scores of friends, and all those who loved him.”
President Joe Biden said he served alongside Warner for three decades and was honored when the Republican endorsed him in the 2020 election.
"The John Warner I knew was guided by two things: his conscience and our Constitution. And, when acting in accordance with both, he neither wavered in his convictions nor was concerned with the consequences," Biden said in a statement.
From fighting for international rules and norms to help keep the peace among nations, to his principled stances to oppose torture and support our Armed Forces and our national security, I always knew that John’s decisions were guided by his values—even when we disagreed on the policy outcomes. When told that if he voted in a way that was not in line with his party’s position—as he did numerous times on issues of rational gun policy, women’s rights, and judicial nominees—that 'people would say,' his favorite rejoinder was, 'Let ‘em say it.'”
When Senator Warner left the Senate, Biden said. he asked that the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem, O Ship of State be read into the Senate Record.
"In that poem is the stanza:
In spite of rock and tempest’s roar,
In spite of false lights on the shore,
Sail on, nor fear to breast the sea!
Our hearts, our hopes, are all with thee."
"Through his service in uniform and the Senate, John Warner deftly helped guide our ship of state. Today our hearts and prayers are with his family," Biden said.