Funeral held for Rhode Island Sen. John Chafee
October 30, 1999
Web posted at: 12:27 p.m. EDT (1627 GMT)
PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island (CNN) -- Sen. John Chafee was
remembered Saturday in a funeral attended by President
Clinton, about half the U.S. Senate and several other
The turnout of national figures was among the largest ever
for the funeral of a U.S. senator -- a reflection of the
admiration the moderate Republican earned during his four
decades of public service, including 23 years in the Senate.
Chafee died Sunday of heart failure at age 77.
Chafee died Sunday of heart failure at age 77
Before the funeral, Chafee's flag-draped coffin was removed
from the Rhode Island State House, where the late senator lay
in state since Friday.
Six Marine Corps pallbearers then placed the coffin onto a
carriage, and two horses pulled the carriage through downtown
streets lined with people paying their last respects.
Following the carriage on foot were Chafee's five adult
children. Eight black limousines completed the procession,
carrying Chafee's wife, Virginia, and her grandchildren.
Before being elected to the U.S. Senate, Chafee served as
governor of Rhode Island and in the state House of
Representatives. He also had been Secretary of the U.S. Navy.
Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Almond will name a successor to
serve out the remainder of Chafee's term, which ends at the
end of 2000. Chafee had announced his retirement and his son,
Lincoln Chafee, the Republican mayor of Warwick, is running
for his seat.
If Lincoln Chafee is named to replace his father, he still
would have to run for a seat in the November election in 2000.
A veteran of war and politics
John Chafee was born on October 22, 1922. He lived in Rhode Island for most of his life.
According to his biography on his Web page, Chafee interrupted his college education at Yale to serve in the Marine Corps during World War II and took part in the invasion of Guadalcanal, the largest of the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific.
After his military service, Chafee graduated from Yale in 1947 and earned a law degree from Harvard in 1950.
He was recalled to active military duty in 1951 and commanded a rifle company in Korea.
Chafee practiced law for a time after leaving Korea and then got involved with Rhode Island state politics.
From state house to U.S. Senate
Chafee served six years in the Rhode Island House of Representatives where he was elected minority leader. In 1962 he was elected governor, winning by only 398 votes. He was re-elected in 1964 and 1966 -- both times by the largest margin in state history. In January 1969, Chafee was appointed Secretary of the Navy -- a post he held for over three years.
Chafee started his Senate career in 1976. He was elected to his fourth term in 1994. His biography says Chafee "is the only Republican to be elected to the U.S. Senate from Rhode Island in the past 68 years."
Chafee was chairman of the Senate Environment and Public
Works Committee. In addition, he was a member of the
committees on Finance, Taxation and the Select Committee on
Chafee and his wife Virginia have five children and 12 grandchildren.