Orrin Hatch, the longest-serving Republican senator in history who has been part of Utah politics for more than four decades, died Saturday at the age of 88.
His death was announced in a statement by his foundation that did not specify the cause.
As a staunch conservative on most economic and social issues, he has also worked several times during his long career with Democrats on issues ranging from stem cell research to the rights of people with disabilities to expanding children’s health insurance. He also made friends across the aisle, especially with the late Edward Kennedy.
Hatch also fought for Republican issues, such as abortion limits, and helped shape the U.S. Supreme Court, including Judge Clarence Thomas’s defense of sexual harassment allegations during confirmation hearings.
He later became an ally of Donald Trump and used his role as chairman of the Senate’s powerful finance committee to fundamentally rewrite US tax codes. In return, Trump helped Hatch resolve a key issue for Utah Republicans with a controversial move to drastically reduce the two national monuments that had been declared by previous presidents.
Hatch retired in 2019 and was known for his side career as a singer and music artist with themes of his religious faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
He is survived by his wife, Elaine, and their six children.
One of the problems Hatch returned to during his career was the restriction or ban of abortions, which put him at the center of one of the most controversial problems in the country. He was the author of a number of “Hatch amendments” to the constitution aimed at reducing the availability of abortions.
In 1991, he became known as one of Thomas’s most vocal defenders against allegations of sexual harassment by law professor Anita Hill. Hatch read aloud during confirmation hearings from the Devil’s Exorcist and suggested that Hill steal details from the book.
Hatch also helped introduce legislation tightening child pornography laws and making illegal music downloads a prosecutable crime.
For Hatch, the problem with downloading music was personal. A member of the faith widely known as a Mormon, in his spare time he often wrote religious songs and recorded music to take a break from the stress of living in Washington. In 2005, Hatch earned about $ 39,000 on royalties for his songs.
One of his songs “Unspoken” became platinum after appearing in “WOW Hits 2005”, a compilation of Christian pop music.
Not afraid to fight politically, he said he had always tried to make friends quickly with those with whom he had disputes. Hatch was used to playing hard-learning boxing as a child in Pittsburgh to repel the attacks of older, larger students.
When Hatch announced that he would not seek re-election in 2018, he said “every good fighter knows when to hang gloves.”
After moving to Utah in the early 1970s, Hatch, a former bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ran for his first public office in 1976 and narrowly annoyed Democratic Sen. Frank Moss.
In 1982, he repelled challenger Ted Wilson, the Democratic mayor of Salt Lake City, to win a second term with a solid lead.
He was never seriously challenged again.