William Scranton Jr., a former Pennsylvania governor, presidential candidate and ambassador to the United Nations, died at age 96.
Mike DeVanney, a family spokesperson, told the Associated Press Scranton died Sunday night, July 28, of a cerebral hemorrhage at a retirement community in Montecito, Calif.
Scranton was Pennslyvania’s 38th governor, serving one term from 1963 to 1967. He had a home in Waverly, just outside the city named for his family.
Clarks Summit Borough Council President Gerrie Fitzgerald Carey said she remembers Scranton from the mid-1960s when she was a girl growing up in Clarks Summit. Her brother, John Fitzgerald, attended school at that time at Bishop Hannon High School in Scranton, and would wait for the bus in the mornings at the corner of State and Grove streets. She said Scranton would often stop and say, ‘Hop in!’ offering a ride to school.
“He was such a generous man,” Carey said, “generous with his time, talent and treasures. He was an extremely humble man.”
She added she is saddened to hear of his death, which she described as a “great loss to the area.”
State Representative Sid Michaels Kavulich reflected back on a speech Scranton delivered during the Clarks Summit Centennial Celebration in 2011.
“That individual day stands out,” he said. “When I heard him speak, I was just flabbergasted. He needed assistance getting around, but when he got up and spoke, I was just so captivated. He was so sharp and eloquent. I was really in awe of him, and that speech has stayed with me.”
Kavulich believes Scranton’s ability to cross party lines contributed to his grand stature in the area.
“So many people have such great respect and love for him,” he said. “He crossed all party lines.”
The moderately liberal Republican challenged conservative Berry Goldwater in 1964 during a brief, reluctant foray into presidential politics. Scranton committed to the campaign just a month before the national convention and lost the nomination to Goldwater by a four-to-one margin.
He was appointed ambassador to the United Nations by President Gerald Ford in 1976 and served roughly 10 months in the post.
Republican Party of Pennsylvania Chairman Rob Gleason said, “Bill Scranton, a veteran, U.S. Congressman, Pennsylvania Governor, presidential candidate and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, was a dedicated public servant and a national figure in American politics. Following his retirement, Governor Scranton remained an important figure to the people of Pennsylvania and we cherish his contributions to our Commonwealth and country. We extend our deepest sympathies to Governor Scranton’s family and our heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with them.”
U.S. Senator Bob Casey described Scranton as an extraordinary public servant.
“Governor Scranton served his home area, our Commonwealth and our country with distinction and with honor. As a Congressman and as Governor, he prioritized education, economic development and job creation. When he left office after four years as Governor, Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate was one of the lowest ever. 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. ”
Patty Lawler, Clarks Summit Borough council member and current mayoral candidate, described Scranton as “a quintessential gentleman.”
“He was very involved with everything outside of himself,” she said, “very involved with making the quality of life better for everyone.”
She said she always admired Scranton for his many leadership qualities and she desires to be like him as a person.
She reminisced of a time when, as a young woman in her 30s, she heard him give a speech which resonated with her about how during the Great Depression, his family started a community trust for the “average Joe” to meet various needs in the community. She said she remembers him saying that was one of his favorite parts about being a Scranton.
That community trust later developed into the Scranton Area Foundation, which today holds and manages a variety of funds from individuals, organizations and corporations, using the gifts to respond to community needs and opportunities in fields such as health, education, arts, environment, human services, and civic affairs.
Lawler said she recently sent a note to Scranton explaining an idea she had to honor him in the Borough of Clarks Summit.
“I wanted to commemorate him as a person,” she said.
A letter arrived shortly after, however, from Scranton’s secretary saying he was honored at the thought, but declined to be “immortalized.”
“He always remained very humble,” Lawler said.