N.J. Sen. Frank Lautenberg dies at 89

WI Web Staff | 6/3/2013, 1 p.m.
N.J. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (Courtesy of lautenberg.senate.gov)

New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a liberal icon and author of the landmark legislation that set the country's legal drinking age, died Monday in New York of viral pneumonia. He was 89.

Lautenberg, who initially won his seat in 1982, served two different terms and was the last World War II veteran serving in the Senate, as well as the oldest overall. He was known as a firebrand who frequently took on the guns, tobacco and alcohol industries.

His legislative legacy includes banning smoking on airplanes and pushing for the nation’s legal drinking age to be raised to 21.

He was diagnosed in 2010 with lymphoma of the stomach and underwent chemotherapy until the disease went into remission later that year.

In recent months, though, his failing health had left him in a wheelchair. He announced in February that he would not seek re-election in 2014.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will appoint an interim replacement.

Lautenberg is survived by his wife, Bonnie, and four children from a previous marriage.