NARBERTH – Hundreds of people gathered to pay their final respects to former U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter on Tuesday, including Vice President Joe Biden and former Pennsylvania governors Ed Rendell and Dick Thornburgh.
Those at Specter’s funeral in suburban Philadelphia also included judges, business and university leaders and others. His public service was held at Har Zion Temple in Penn Valley.
Specter died Sunday at the age of 82 at his home in a Philadelphia suburb after battling non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He had fought two previous bouts with Hodgkin lymphoma, and also overcame a brain tumor and cardiac arrest following bypass surgery.
President Barack Obama ordered flags to be flown at half-staff at the White House and other public buildings in honor of the former senator.
Specter spent 30 years as a senator and was Pennsylvania’s longest-serving U.S. senator. His long political career thrust him to the center of many pivotal events in modern American history. He promoted the single-bullet theory in the death of President John F. Kennedy, questioned Anita Hill about sexual harassment claims she raised against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and worked to advance Mideast peace and stem-cell research.
He switched from Republican to Democrat late in his career before losing in the 2010 primary.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said Specter set the standard for working across party lines.
Anthony Scirica, the chief judge on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, called Specter “irreplaceable.” Scricia said Specter was a staunch supporter of keeping judges free from political influence.
A law school friend of Specter said Specter did not let his illness deter him from teaching law school students just days before his death.
Speaking at Specter’s funeral, U.S. District Judge Jan DuBois said Specter taught one last law class on Oct. 4 at the University of Pennsylvania Law School on the relationship between Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court. That was, DuBois said, how Specter approached everything in life: “with intensity, determination and grit.”
Biden, Specter’s former Senate colleague, said he’s never seen someone with as much “undaunted courage” as Specter. He said Specter’s fights should give hope to all families fighting cancer.
“He believed he could change the world, if he just worked hard enough at it,” Biden said.