Former United States Senator John Tunney Passes Away

Today people in California and around the world mourn the passing of retired United States Senator John V. Tunney from California. He became well known nationally for promoting civil right and environmental awareness. The Associated Press reported the 83-year old Senator passed away at his Los Angeles home after battling cancer.

Early Years

Born in 1934 in New York City, John Tunney passed much of his childhood in an upscale Connecticut enclave. His father, Gene Tunney, enjoyed an acclaimed boxing career. He married Mary "Polly" Lauder, a relative of wealthy industrialist Andrew Carnegie. The couple raised their four children on a rural estate outside Stamford.

John Tunney attended New Canaan Country School and exclusive Westminster Prep School before gaining admission to Yale University. He graduated in 1956, and subsequently attended the University of Virginia School of Law, where he received a law degree in 1959. He gained admission to the California bar in 1963.

Political Service

A Democrat, John Tunney won election to Congress from the 38th District of California in 1964. He represented constituents in Riverside and Imperial Counties in the House of Representatives during three terms. In 1970, during President Nixon's first term, he entered the mid-term election contest to win a U. S. Senate seat. At the young age of 36, he won a party primary against Congressman George Brown, Jr. and soon afterwards defeated incumbent Republican Senator George Murphy.

Senator Tunney worked to promote the passage of anti-trust legislation. He frequently supported liberal causes. He helped promote environmental legislation and worked to protect voting rights. As a first term senator, he helped author over 30 new laws. Some media sources compared him to former Senator Robert Kennedy and considered him a likely future presidential contender. However, in 1976 his political career ended when he lost his re-election bid unexpectedly to Republican S.I. Hayakawa. Many analysts believed a bitter primary contest against anti-war activist Tom Hayden contributed to Senator Tunney's defeat.

Law Practice And Retirement

After losing office, John Tunney joined the law firm of Manatt, Phelps, Rothenberg & Tunney as a senior partner. He continued to support civic and environmental causes. He served on the Board of Directors of UCLA's Hammer Museum.

He remained active as an attorney before retiring in 1987. During his life he married twice. His second wife, Kathinka, and several children and grandchildren survive him.