With the 'lion of the Senate' gone, East Texans reflect

By Layron Livingston - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - For more than 40 years Kennedy, served in Senate, playing a major role in passing landmark civil and voting rights legislation. Around Washington, he was known as the "lion of the senate." And, while party lines were often drawn, some say he was one of the most effective legislators of our time and some witnessed it firsthand.

"It was a real joy for me and an honor to be there while he worked on the cause of his life," said Joanna Reagan, who knew the senator.

Reagan now lives in Cherokee County, but she spent nearly 15 years of her life on capitol hill working for Senator Ted Kennedy.

"He was gregarious, he was smart [and] he had an inquiring mind," said Reagan.

From 1972 to 1986, Reagan worked on Senate subcommittees and as scheduler for the senator.

"That included all making sure that all the children's football games and parent teacher talks and that kind of thing were on his schedule," explained Reagan.

She grew to know Senator Kennedy's family and his politics on a personal level.

"Civil rights legislation, education...he loved legislation," said Reagan. "He loved the Senate."

"He was a person who could bring people together...to work together to achieve for the common good," said Michael Tolbert, a precinct chair with the Smith County Democratic Party.

He says Kennedy's endorsement of then Senator, now President Obama was not surprising.

"He saw in our president the spirit of being the person about cooperation," said Tolbert. "Having someone with that breadth of experience to be a champion for common people, I think that's something that is rare and will be missed."

"He did work well with some members of our party," said Ashton Oravetz, chair of the Smith County Republican Party, "mostly the moderate Republicans."

Oravetz says he didn't agree with many of the senator's politics, but agrees he will be remembered.

"His lasting legacy, I think, will be on civil rights," he said. "Obviously, for better or for worse, he had an impact on America, and he will be in the history books in the future."

Texas Senator John Cornyn worked closely with Ted Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Committee. In a statement, he said, "Ted's passion and dedication were without parallel. His dogged determination, an inspiration. He and the entire Kennedy family are in Sandy's and my prayers during this difficult time."

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