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Former Sen. Rudman remembered fondly at memorial service

State House Bureau

January 25. 2013 6:35PM
U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter, right, hugs former Attorney General Tom Rath at a memorial service for Warren Rudman in Concord on Friday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

CONCORD - The hierarchy of New Hampshire's political and judicial communities from both sides of the aisle gathered Friday to honor former U.S. Sen. Warren Rudman.

He was remembered by friends and colleagues as a man of fierce loyalty, integrity and decency who liked to laugh, particularly at himself, but who always put the interests of New Hampshire, its people and America before anything else in his life of public service.

From attorneys general to U.S. senators past and present and from former staff members and law partners to colleagues, they shared personal reflections of the man many said changed their lives.

While the 200 or so people who came to remember Rudman gathered in the federal courthouse that bares his name, his long-time friend Tom Rath said the courthouse is not Rudman's true legacy, it is the people whom he worked with and mentored, who became his friends.

Rath asked them to stand and said "Warren found so many good people who did so many good things for this state and beyond."

Rudman, who died in November at the age of 82 from complications of lymphoma, was a born leader and an inspiration to many of the people who spoke at his service, including former U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter who read the note he wrote in 1976 when Rudman left the Attorney General's Office.

"We will think of these years as the years with Warren," Souter, who was Rudman's deputy attorney general at the time, read. "They were wonderful."

His U.S. Senate New Hampshire colleague of 10 years Gordon Humphrey told of the professional relationship they had when they worked together and of Rudman's self-deprecating humor.

Humphrey also noted Rudman's vision of the devastation deficit spending would bring to this country and what Humphrey called the wreck ahead.

What better way to honor Rudman, Humphrey said, then a rededication to "Warren's quest to save this country from a financial shipwreck. That would be a fitting memorial to Warren."

Rudman was a founder of the Concord Coalition with former U.S. Sen. Paul Tsongas, a Democrat from Massachusetts. The group sought to raise awareness of the pending federal debt crisis.

Rudman was best known for co-writing the deficit reduction bill with fellow Republican Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas and Democrat Ernest Hollings of South Carolina.

The bill required "sequestration" of federal funding if deficit targets were not reached. The move helped reduce the federal deficit at the time, but since then the deficit has grown substantially.

Both U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte said if Rudman's formula had remained in place the country would not be in the financial situation it is today.

Ayotte said "He always called it like he saw it,' noting the country is still trying to reach the standard he set for fiscal responsibility today.

Shaheen, Gov. Maggie Hassan and former Gov. John Lynch all praised Rudman for his bipartisanship and his work to find middle ground among different ideologies.

"Warren Rudman did not care about the parties," said Lynch, "he cared about doing the right thing, whether it was the Iran Contra hearings or the investigation of the Keating five" which included Republican senators.

Others told of his dedication, his work ethics and his ability to instill confidence in the people who worked for him to accomplish things they did not believe they could do.

A former legal partner and one-time campaign worker, Manchester attorney Brad Cook said he remembers Rudman in the eastside corridor on the 18th floor of Hampshire Plaza in Manchester where they worked at the Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green law firm.

"He took people and he made them better and he got more out of people than they believed they had to give," Cook said. "I don't know how I got here, but I know Warren had something to do with it."

Rudman entered public service when he became legal counsel to former N.H. Gov. Walter Peterson who died last year. Peterson named him attorney general, where he remained when Meldrim Thomson defeated Peterson in the Republican primary and went on to become governor.

Thomson's son and chief of staff, Peter Thomson, said at first his father and Rudman were like "a pair of bulls forced to share the same pasture over a long winter's chill," but the relationship soon thawed as the two learned to work together for the good of the state.

Rudman went on to serve 12 years in the Senate, stepping down in 1992.

His press secretary Robert Stevenson said Rudman was in Washington to do the work he was elected to carry out.

"He was a man of action," Stephenson said. "He didn't suffer fools and he didn't waste time."

Rudman never attended a State Dinner or an embassy party, Stevenson said, because he believed they were frivolous, but "he loved the idea of America."

Also speaking at the ceremony were state Sen. Lou D'Allesandro, D-Manchester, and U.S. Court of Appeals First Circuit Judge Norman Stahl, whom Rudman helped become a federal justice.

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