John Warner, a longtime U.S. Senator from Virginia, died of heart failure on Tuesday. He was 94 years old.
Warner, a Republican who served as secretary and undersecretary for the Navy under President Richard Nixon, was also married to Hollywood actress Elizabeth Taylor from 1976 to 1982, during his first run for the Senate in 1978. During his five terms in the Senate, he served as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and chairman of the Senate Rules Committee.
The Republican “was frail but had a lot of spirit until his last days,” his longtime chief of staff, Susan A. Magill, told the Associated Press.
He was commemorated online by political fans and observers. Larry Sabato, the director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, pointed out that though Warner was a Republican, he endorsed a number of Democrats toward the end of his life “because the GOP had moved so far to the right.”
“Warner was a moderate Republican centrist — a nearly extinct species today,” Sabato added. “On a personal note, John Warner visited my classes almost every semester, and tackled every single question — friendly or not. Students loved him and couldn’t get enough.”
Warner also gained recognition as the sixth husband of Elizabeth Taylor, who met him after her second divorce from Richard Burton. She actively campaigned for Warner during his 1978 Senate campaign but later said she grew bored being a Washington, D.C., political spouse. The couple separated in 1981, and divorced the following year.
Current Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia), who has no relation to John Warner and unsuccessfully ran against the senior senator in 1996, also posted a tribute. “I’m devastated to hear of the passing of my dear friend John Warner,” he wrote. “To me, he was the gold standard in Virginia. I will forever be grateful for his friendship and mentorship. I’ll miss you, John.”
The older Republican Warner endorsed the younger Democrat Warner in 2014.