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Former Sen. Ted Stevens remembered

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Republicans, Democrats remember former Sen. Ted Stevens
  • Stevens called "patriot," "tenacious" fighter for Alaska

(CNN) -- Former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska was killed in a plane crash Monday. Stevens served more time in the U.S. Senate than any Republican in history.

Colleagues from his Senate days and others who knew him remembered Stevens on Tuesday, as news of his death was confirmed.

President Barack Obama

"A decorated World War II veteran, Senator Ted Stevens devoted his career to serving the people of Alaska and fighting for our men and women in uniform. Michelle and I extend our condolences to the entire Stevens family and to the families of those who perished alongside Senator Stevens in this terrible accident."

President George H.W. Bush

"Barbara and I mourn the tragic loss of Senator Ted Stevens, a respected friend of longstanding, and send our most sincere condolences to his family. Ted Stevens loved the Senate; he loved Alaska; and he loved his family -- and he will be dearly missed."

Gov. Sean Parnell, (R) Alaska

"Senator Ted Stevens fought hard for our future in Alaska. He was larger than life. Ted was a lion who retreated before nothing. He was a devoted husband... a loving father. His impact on Alaska will live on in future generations."

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, (R) Alaska

"(Monday) night, Alaska lost a hero and I lost a dear friend. The thought of losing Ted Stevens, a man who was known to business and community leaders, Native chiefs and everyday Alaskans as 'Uncle Ted,' is too difficult to fathom. His entire life was dedicated to public service -- from his days as a pilot in World War II to his four decades of service in the United States Senate. He truly was the greatest of the 'Greatest Generation.' The love and respect that Alaskans of all persuasions feel toward Ted Stevens is on a par with what the American people felt towards leaders such as John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ronald Reagan. Ted had the vision of a John Kennedy that Alaskans are an exceptional people who would achieve great things in his lifetime; the compassion of a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in devoting his life to alleviating the Third World conditions that plagued Alaska's Native people; and the unwavering strength of a Ronald Reagan whether fighting for the men and women of our military or for Alaska's right to develop ANWR and its abundant natural resources."

Sen. Mark Begich, (D) Alaska

"Alaska has lost one of its greatest statesmen and a true pioneer of our state with the passing of Senator Ted Sevens. Over his four decades of public service in the U.S. Senate, Senator Stevens was a forceful advocate for Alaska who helped transform our state in the challenging years after statehood. Senator Stevens' many contributions to Alaska are enormous and his legacy of fierce devotion to Alaska will be long-lasting."

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden

"We at NASA are deeply saddened by today's news that former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens and others were killed in a plane crash in Alaska that also injured former NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe and his son, Kevin. As a longtime supporter of NASA, Sen. Stevens made lasting contributions to our agency and our country. We at NASA mourn his loss and send our deepest condolences to his family, as well as the families and friends of all who perished in the accident. We also send our best wishes for a speedy recovery to Sean, Kevin, and other survivors of the crash. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families."

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) Kentucky/Minority Leader

"It is with deep sadness that Elaine and I note the passing of a friend and former colleague, Senator Ted Stevens. In the history of our country, no one man has done more for one state than Ted Stevens. His commitment to the people of Alaska and his nation spanned decades, and he left a lasting mark on both. From his early military service as a pilot in World War II, to his involvement in the statehood of 'The Last Frontier,' to his fierce support and defense of our nation's military, Ted Stevens was always there, fighting for what he believed in, and usually winning. He was a force to be reckoned with, and we will miss him greatly."

Sen. Daniel Inouye, (D) Hawaii

"Irene and I are deeply saddened by the tragic death of our dear friend, and my brother, Ted Stevens. Our friendship was a very special one. When it came to policy, we disagreed more often than we agreed, but we were never disagreeable with one another. We were always positive and forthright. Senator Stevens and I worked together to ensure that the small non-contiguous states of Hawaii and Alaska were not forgotten by the lower 48 and to ensure that the nation awoke to the importance of the Pacific for our economy and international relations. I will never forget him."

Sen. Orrin Hatch, (R) Utah

"Today, America lost a legend, a patriot and a gentle warrior who never stopped fighting for his beloved state of Alaska or for what he believed in. Ted Stevens is irreplaceable -- his fierce loyalty and spirit remain unrivalled in the United States Senate. He will be greatly missed, but his legacy will always live on."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, (R) South Carolina

"I'm very sad to hear of the passing of former Senator Ted Stevens. Senator Stevens was a decorated World War II veteran, and he was truly loved by the people of Alaska. As the longest serving Republican senator in history, he lived a life of incredible accomplishment. He will be greatly missed."

Sen. Joe Lieberman, (I) Connecticut

"America has lost a great patriot; the state of Alaska has lost a founding father; and I have lost a dear friend. I am deeply saddened by Ted's death. I knew him for many years as a valued friend, a neighbor and a colleague. We shared many great experiences and I am grateful for all of the wisdom he offered me personally. I treasure the example he set in his career of devoted service to this country in the United States Army Air Force, the United States Senate, and through the many important causes that he championed for the state of Alaska and throughout our country. We, his colleagues and his friends, were particularly blessed with the opportunity to have learned from Ted, who was always doggedly determined to serve the best interests of the people and state that he loved so much. Our occasional differences on legislative issues never adversely affected our abiding friendship. Ted was a giant of the United States Senate, and at a time of extreme political polarization, he inspired a spirit of bipartisanship by reaching across the aisle."

Sen. Mary Landrieu, (D) Louisiana

"I am deeply saddened to learn of the tragic death of my former colleague and friend, Senator Ted Stevens. Ted was a skilled legislator who mastered the art of principled compromise for the betterment of Alaska and the nation.

"I took a trip to Alaska with Ted in 2007 and quickly found his fingerprints in every corner of the state -- from Alaska's largest cities to the most remote Native villages. Ted always said, 'To hell with politics. Do what is best for Alaska.' He never apologized for fighting for his state, and Alaska is better for it today. Ted's work continues to touch the lives of millions of Americans through his strong support for our military, revolutionizing the nation's fishing industry, his establishment of the U.S. Olympic Committee, and his persistent efforts to achieve American energy independence."

Michael Steele, RNC Chairman

"It is with deep regret that I learned of former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens' tragic death in (Monday) night's plane crash in Alaska. Our sympathies go out to the Stevens family and all who have lost a loved one. Senator Stevens had a long and active career serving the people of Alaska in the United States Senate and was revered for his unparalleled effectiveness at fighting for his home state interests. He was a colleague and friend to many in the Senate but he was a champion for the people of Alaska. He will be missed."

Rep. Dave Obey, (D) Wisconsin

"Ted Stevens and I agreed on issues about once a century, but I always enjoyed and appreciated working with him because you always knew exactly where he stood. There was no guile about him. He devoted his life to the State of Alaska, which he dearly loved, and fought for it every day of his life with conviction and passion."

Sen. John Cornyn, (R) Texas

"This is a sad day for the state of Alaska and our entire nation. When I came to the Senate in 2002, Ted Stevens was already one of the longest serving Republican senators in history. His public service began with his military service in World War II and ended more than 60 years later. He was a dedicated, passionate and faithful public servant for the people of Alaska. But the role he cherished the most was that of husband, father and grandfather."

Ken Salazar, secretary of the Interior

"Senator Stevens was a friend and colleague. From his courage in World War II, his work for Alaska statehood and his time at the Department of the Interior to his years of leadership in the U.S. Senate, Senator Stevens left behind a lifetime of service. We have lost a dedicated public servant for our country, the United States Senate, and Alaska."

Dennis DeConcini, former senator (D) Arizona

DeConcini said he had been contacted by Stevens' staff to see whether he wanted to go on a trip to China with other former senators in November. "I said yes," DeConcini said, "and I wrote him a note about it; I said, 'Thanks for thinking of us, we look forward to seeing you.'" DeConcini said only three days ago he got back a handwritten note from Stevens, saying, "I look forward to seeing you. I'm on my way to a fishing trip in Alaska, I'll call you when I get back." DeConcini told CNN's Rick Sanchez he had dinner with Stevens in April. He praised Stevens for being helpful to Arizona's veterans and Native Americans. "I'm always indebted to him," DeConcini said. When asked how Stevens was in April, DeConcini said, "He seemed to be doing relatively well, considering all the tragedies and difficulties he'd been through." DeConcini said he talked to Stevens not long after charges had been dismissed against him. "He said, 'Well, those things take a toll on you, Dennis.' And I said, yeah, I know what you mean." DeConcini called Stevens a "tough guy. He was a strong man. He believed in his state. Sometimes he went overboard when it came to the 'Bridge to No Place,' but I saw the clinics he built for the veterans and Native Americans. ...

"We used to kid him. We said they're going to rename that state 'Stevens,' you've done so much for 'em."

Bob Francis, former NTSB vice chair

"Sen. Stevens was probably the biggest advocate in the Senate for aviation safety. And he basically volunteered the state of Alaska for the test program for the next generation of air traffic control. He was enormously knowledgeable. You can see by the amount of activity that is associated with him in Alaska. But he was always not only in the vanguard of aviation safety in Alaska but nationally."

Sarah Palin, (R) former Alaskan governor

"It's with great sadness that Todd and I hear the reports coming in of Senator Ted Stevens' passing in the plane crash near Dillingham. In our land of towering mountains and larger than life characters, none were larger than the man who in 2000 was voted 'Alaskan of the Century.' This decorated World War II pilot was a warrior and a true champion of Alaska. In 40 years of service in the U.S. Senate, he fought tenaciously for Alaska's future. Alaskans know how much we owe to Senator Stevens, but all Americans owe him a debt of gratitude for his leadership on many issues, including the crucial energy issues that fuel American prosperity. Two years ago, he sat at my kitchen table over a salmon lunch, and we talked about our long anticipated Alaska natural gas pipeline and our mutual commitment to have the Last Frontier's rich resources contribute to America's quest for energy independence. Our senator was also known for spearheading efforts to ensure equality in education, and his Title IX legislation allowed girls to be on a level playing field in the athletic arena."

Jack Gerard, president and CEO American Petroleum Institute

"We are saddened (Tuesday) by the news that former Senator Ted Stevens has died in a plane crash. Ted Stevens loved Alaska and cared deeply about his constituents. He understood the importance of the oil and natural gas industry, and he worked tirelessly to help secure a stronger energy future for Alaskans and all Americans.