William Warren Scranton Jr., a former Pennsylvania governor, congressman, presidential candidate and ambassador to the United Nations, died Sunday night at the age 96.
Scranton died of a cerebral hemorrhage at a retirement community in Montecito, Calif., where he lived with his wife Mary, a family spokesman told The Associated Press on Monday.
Scranton, a progressive Republican from the Lackawanna County city named after his family, was elected to Congress in 1960. He served one term before he was elected as Pennsylvania’s 38th governor in 1962.
His foray into presidential politics occurred in 1964, during his one term as governor, when he emerged as a moderately liberal alternative to conservative Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater after New York Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller dropped out of the race.
Scranton, who committed to the race barely a month before the national convention in San Francisco, lost to Goldwater by a 4-1 margin after a hoped-for endorsement from former President Dwight D. Eisenhower failed to materialize. In the general election, Goldwater lost to Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson by a landslide.
Why he ran
“I didn’t care a thing about becoming president,” Scranton said in a 2008 interview with The Times Leader. “I knew I couldn’t win it.”
Scranton said he had concerns about Goldwater and the future of the Republican Party and worried it would become the party of white supremacy.
His last-minute foray into the race — he didn’t enter until June — went a long way to reshaping the Republican Party.
“It is impossible to consider the short-lived Scranton campaign as a serious exercise in politics; but as an exercise in gallantry it may have saved the soul of the Republican Party,” Theodore H. White wrote in his book “The Making of the President, 1964.”
A popular governor who was skilled in public relations, Scranton took advantage of a strong economy to reform the Pennsylvania Civil Service, double spending on education and increase the state sales tax from 4 percent to 5 percent. State spending increased by 38 percent during his administration.
Scranton, whose ancestors established vast holdings in iron, coal and railroads during the 19th century, was appointed ambassador to the United Nations in 1976 by President Gerald Ford. He served about 10 months in the post.
Though his family was among the wealthiest in the region, money in politics was not something Scranton thought should have had such a role.
Deep pocket influences
Money is at the root of politics and government these days, Scranton said in the 2008 interview, and lobbyists have deep pockets and too much influence.
“In a republic, the people run the country, not money and corporations,” he said. “Money has made us a tyranny.”
Although Scranton and his wife spent much of their time in California in recent years, they also have a home in Waverly. They have four children. The oldest of their three sons, Bill Scranton, served as lieutenant governor under Gov. Dick Thornburgh for eight years.
The younger Scranton ran for governor in 1986 but lost to Democrat Robert P. Casey. He ran again in 2006 but dropped out of the primary amid growing support for former Pittsburgh Steelers star Lynn Swann, who won the Republican nod but lost the general election to Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell.
Casey’s son, U.S. Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr., also of Scranton, commented on Scranton’s passing Monday.
“Today we pause to remember the life of an extraordinary public servant, Gov. William W. Scranton. Gov. Scranton served his home area, our commonwealth and our country with distinction and with honor,” said Casey. “As a congressman and as governor, he prioritized education, economic development and job creation. … Long after he left public office, he continued to devote his considerable skills and energy to helping and promoting Northeastern Pennsylvania and serving the nation in significant appointments that focused on difficult domestic and international issues … .”
The man now residing in the governor’s mansion ordered state flags to fly at half staff until Scranton’s funeral.
“Gov. Scranton was a world-class leader in government. He will be remembered as a man of humility, honesty, dignity and integrity,’’ Gov. Tom Corbett said.
Jim Burn, the chairman of the state’s Democratic Party, also praised the lasting legacy of Scranton saying, “His commitment to improving education and fostering economic development has helped generations of Pennsylvanians.”
Scranton often said his hero was Abraham Lincoln and he shared many of the Civil War president’s ideals.
During the 2008 Time Leader interview, Barack Obama was a presidential candidate who gave Scranton a source of pride in how far the nation has come since the days when he ran for president and segregation was still a fact in some parts of the country.
“I think the country has come a long, long way from the days of slavery to today with a black man running for president,” Scranton said at the time. “I’ve always hoped that America would be the leader in freedom for people. I think it wants to be that and it can be.”
Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.