NEW YORK (October 15, 2012) -- The nation has lost a powerful voice for civil rights with the death of former U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial said today.
"Senator Specter's strong moral convictions led him to vote with his conscience instead of with his party," Morial said. "That kind of independence and political courage is increasingly rare, and he will be sorely missed."
Among the key civil rights initiatives Specter supported were:
- Civil Rights Act of 1991
- Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009
- Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA)
- Equal Protection of Voting Rights Act of 2001
- Paycheck Fairness Act
- Hate Crimes Amendment 2000
- Don’t Ask Don't Tell Repeal Act
"Senator Specter was one of only three Republicans who voted for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and he supported it even though it led to the demise of his relationship with the Republican party," Morial said. "His experience living through the Great Depression fueled his resolve to prevent another economic catastrophe. The nation owes him a great debt for the courage of his conviction."
Throughout his 30-year career, Specter was a proponent of equal pay, the rights of the disabled and children, and equal educational opportunity.
“Senator Specter was a courageous fighter, in both his public and his personal life,” said Patricia Coulter, President and CEO of the Philadelphia Urban League. “He shared the Urban League mission of empowering African Americans and enabling them to achieve economic independence. When the Urban League of Philadelphia opened its Entrepreneur Center four years ago, Senator Specter championed the call for an appropriation to support African American small businesses. Today, the ULP is working with more than 500 African American-owned businesses, helping them increase their revenues and create new jobs. This is only a small part of Senator Specter’s legacy, but it is a critical one to our community.”
Esther Bush, President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, said, “During his long tenure representing Pennsylvania, Senator Specter was consistently sensitive to issues of concern to the Urban League and supportive of policies that addressed many of those issues. He set a leadership example by his ability and willingness to reach across party lines to tackle matters of consequence.”
Morial added that the longtime chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee had a lasting impact on the makeup of the Supreme Court. Going against his party once again, over the years he voted to reject Judge Robert Bork, and to confirm Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.
"It's been said that Senator Specter was a vanishing breed, but we at the Urban League hope current and future elected officials will honor his legacy by putting aside partisan concerns and committing themselves, as he did, to the good of the nation," Morial said.
CONTACT: Teresa Candori