‘He was a brave man.’ Former Gov. Lowell Weicker remembered as political maverick

Leaders from Hartford to Washington – and beyond – packed into a Greenwich church Monday to remember Lowell Weicker, a “maverick” political giant still influencing Connecticut politics nearly three decades after he left office.

John Craven

Jul 10, 2023, 2:30 PM

Updated 324 days ago

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Leaders from Hartford to Washington – and beyond – packed into a Greenwich church Monday to remember Lowell Weicker, a “maverick” political giant still influencing Connecticut politics nearly three decades after he left office.
Standing at a towering 6 feet, 6 inches tall, Weicker was a feisty politician who never backed down from unpopular political fights, including taking on Richard Nixon and pushing through a state income tax.
“Bold and to the point,” said Rep. John Larson (D-Hartford), who served as Connecticut Senate president when Weicker was governor in the 1990s. “You always knew where you stood with Lowell Weicker, let me tell you that.”
Weicker died on June 28 at the age of 92.
HUNDREDS FLOCK TO GREENWICH
Hundreds attended Weicker’s funeral at St. Barnabas Church in Greenwich, the town that launched his career in 1962. Weicker served as Greenwich first selectman and a state lawmaker before heading to Congress in 1968.
He made national headlines during the Watergate hearings. As a freshman senator, Weicker was the first major Republican to call for then-President Richard Nixon's resignation.
“He was a brave man. He was a patriot,” said former Sen. Chris Dodd. “It was quickly apparent to all, he wasn't there to protect his party's president, nor his party. In the face of emerging facts, Lowell Weicker made sure a lantern was held up to the darkness.”
Weicker even briefly ran for president in 1980. He later became Connecticut’s first and only independent governor in 1990.
SPLIT WITH GOP
Both friends and political adversaries remembered Weicker as an old-style “New England Republican” who put people over politics. Over the years, Weicker was increasingly at odds with his own party over education funding, AIDS and abortion. He helped pass the Americans With Disabilities Act and spoke out against apartheid in South Africa.
“Rights for women, groups that were marginalized. He was there to champion them,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-New Haven). “And you know, we don't see the likes of that kind of leadership today.”
Weicker left the GOP in 1988, after losing his Senate seat to Democrat Joe Lieberman. Two years later, he formed “A Connecticut Party” to run for governor – and win – as an independent candidate. Weicker chose the name so he would appear first on the ballot.
“Partisanship doesn't play very well these days,” Weicker told News 12 Connecticut in 2010. “People want their problems solved.”
“INCOME TAX GOVERNOR”
In spite of his other accomplishments, many people remember Weicker for pushing through the state income tax in 1991. The move erased a nearly $1 billion budget deficit, but it’s still controversial to this day.
“He did so much more than that, but I'm afraid that was defining for his time as governor,” said Gov. Ned Lamont, who called Weicker a mentor. “It was not easy. He knew how incredibly unpopular it was. He looked at every other alternative, and none of them passed the smell test.”
Meantime, Weicker's sons simply remembered him as “Pop” – a man who cared deeply for people, despite his festy political persona.
“Travel time to Old Lyme? Three hours. Lowell time? Fifteen minutes,” said Weicker’s son, Scot. “But I wouldn't change a thing.”
Following the memorial service, Weicker was buried with full military honors at Putnam Cemetery in Greenwich.


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