Former U.S. Senator John Warner died of heart failure at his home in Old Town on Tuesday night. He was 94.
Local and national leaders are remembering the Republican as an old school politician who bridged party lines with a cordiality that many say has been lost in American politics.
“John Warner truly was the best of what public service and elected leadership should be, and his loss leaves a deep void,” Governor Ralph Northam said in a statement. “Virginia, and America, have lost a giant.”
Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine said that he was stunned to hear of Warner’s passing.
“Virginia has lost an unmatched leader, and my family has lost a dear friend,” Kaine said in a statement. “Not having John Warner to go to for advice leaves a big hole in my life. But we can all celebrate a public servant who stood on principle, made us proud, and exemplified the best of what politics can be.”
Sen. Mark Warner (no relation), was Warner’s successor in the Senate in 2009, and said he was devastated by the loss. Both Warners faced each other in the general election for U.S. Senate in 1996, with the elder statesman winning 52.4% of the vote.
“I’m devastated to hear of the passing of my dear friend John Warner,” Warner said. “To me, he was the gold standard in Virginia. I will forever be grateful for his friendship and mentorship. I’ll miss you, John.”
Warner, a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, served as U.S. Secretary of the Navy from 1972 to 1974, and was a U.S. Senator from 1979 to 2009. He was born in Washington, D.C. on February 27, 1927, and after the conflicts received a law degree from the University of Virginia Law School. He became an assistant U.S. attorney in 1956, and later worked on Richard Nixon’s unsuccessful 1960 presidential campaign.
Warner was married three times, first from 1957 to 1973 to banking heiress Catherine Conover Mellon; followed by a six year marriage to movie star Elizabeth Taylor. In 2003, he married Jeanne Vander Myde, and the marriage lasted for the remainder of his life. He is also survived by three children.
“Senator Warner was a statesman and a patriot,” Mayor Justin Wilson said. “They don’t make them like him anymore. He always put Virginia first and dearly loved Alexandria. We will miss him.”
Former Congressman Jim Moran (D-8th) said Warner was an icon.
“He was genuine,” Moran said. “He liked people. He never acted in any offensive way toward anybody. He was always looking to gain consensus and to move forward. I can tell you my 20 years on The Defense Appropriations Committee that the strength of our military was in large part because of the influence of John Warner.”
Former Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille considered Warner a friend and said that he sought his advice before entering politics. He said that Warner advised Euille, who up that that point had been a School Board member, on taking a political side and getting support from the base of a party instead of remaining an independent.
“John will be missed,” Euille said. “Despite being of different political parties, he was a human being and friend first and foremost.”
Funeral arrangements have not been released, and Northam has ordered all Virginia flags to be flown at half staff on the day of his funera..
RIP Senator John W. Warner, who served Virginia and the nation from 1979-2009. Veteran of both WWII and the Korean War. He was 94 and passed peacefully last evening in his home in Alexandria, VA.
— Larry Sabato (@LarrySabato) May 26, 2021
Saddened to hear of the passing of Senator John Warner.
Senator Warner was a towering statesman, committed to Virginia and our nation’s security.
He dearly loved Alexandria and never missed a parade. Here he is finishing our Scottish Christmas Walk in 2019: pic.twitter.com/F3863nODMC
— Justin Wilson (@justindotnet) May 26, 2021
I am stunned at the loss of John Warner. Virginia has lost an unmatched leader, and my family has lost a dear friend. My condolences go out to Jeanne and the entire Warner family. pic.twitter.com/j3GQj29Fkm
— Tim Kaine (@timkaine) May 26, 2021
I'm devastated to hear of the passing of my dear friend John Warner. To me, he was the gold standard in Virginia. I will forever be grateful for his friendship and mentorship. I'll miss you, John. pic.twitter.com/5CFaEIEuSm
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) May 26, 2021
John Warner was a great American who served his country in World War II, the Korean War, and as Navy Secretary, and served Virginia in the Senate for thirty years. I am proud to have been his friend. pic.twitter.com/ICAtWQMkIm
— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) May 26, 2021