(NewsNation) — Former US Senator Orrin Hatch, who served in the US Senate for 42 years, dies at 88 in Salt Lake City, The Hatch Foundation announced on Twitter Saturday. The foundation did not specify the cause of Hatch’s death.

“Senator Orrin G. Hatch embodied the American Dream,” said Matt Sandgren, Executive Director of the Hatch Foundation in a press release. “The son of a carpenter and plasterer, he overcame the poverty of his youth to become a United States Senator. With the difficulties of raising him always fresh in his mind, he made it his life’s mission to expand freedom and opportunity for others, and the results speak for themselves.

Hatch was the longest-serving senator in Utah history, spanning the terms of seven US presidents from 1977 to 2019. He was also the former president pro tempore of the United States Senate, a position that made him in third in the line of presidential succession behind then-Vice President Joe Biden and the Speaker of the House. When he retired, he was succeeded by 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

A conservative on most economic and social issues, he partnered with Democrats several times during his long career on issues ranging from stem cell research to the rights of people with disabilities to the expansion of children’s health insurance. He also formed friendships across the altar, particularly with the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

One issue Hatch returned to throughout his career was limiting or banning abortion, a position that put him at the center of one of the nation’s most controversial issues for decades. He was the author of a variety of “Hatch amendments” to the Constitution intended to decrease the availability of abortions.

In 1991, he became known as one of Clarence Thomas’s most vocal defenders against Anita Hill’s sexual harassment allegations. Hatch read “The Exorcist” aloud at confirmation hearings and suggested that Hill stole details from the book.

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While unquestionably conservative, there were times when Hatch stood apart from many of his conservative colleagues, including then-President George W. Bush when Hatch pushed for federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

Towards the end of his career, he also helped pass federal tax reform and pushed President Donald Trump to reduce the size of two national monuments in Utah while calling for a return to an era of political civility. He became an ally of Trump.

In 1997, Hatch joined Kennedy in sponsoring a $24 billion program for states to provide health insurance to children of low-income parents who don’t qualify for Medicaid.

Hatch helped push through legislation that tightens child pornography laws and makes illegal downloading of music a prosecutable offense.

For Hatch, the issue of illegally downloaded music was personal. As a Mormon, he often wrote religious songs and recorded music in his spare time as a way to unwind from the stress of life in Washington. Hatch earned about $39,000 in royalties from his songs in 2005.

One of his songs, “Unspoken,” went platinum after being featured on “WOW Hits 2005,” a Christian pop music compilation.

In 2000, Hatch sought the Republican nomination for president, saying he had more experience in Washington than his opponents and could work with Democrats. Hatch acknowledged that winning would be a long shot. He dropped out of the race after winning just 1 percent of the vote in the Iowa caucuses and later endorsed George W. Bush.

He became a strong opponent of President Barack Obama’s 2009 health care law after walking out of early bipartisan talks on the legislation. At one point, he said of the legislation: “It’s 2,074 pages long. It’s enough to make you vomit.

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Hatch faced a tough re-election battle from a conservative candidate in 2012, two years after a Tea Party wave ousted Utah Republican Sen. Bob Bennett. Both Bennett and Hatch voted for a bank bailout in 2008 that angered the far right.

Hatch put about $10 million into his 2012 run and worked to build support among Tea Party conservatives.

Hatch was used to playing tough: he learned to box as a kid in Pittsburgh to fend off attacks from bigger and older students. Unafraid to fight, he said that he always strove to quickly befriend those he argued with.

When Hatch announced that he would not seek re-election in 2018, he said that “every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves.”

After moving to Utah in the early 1970s, Hatch, a former bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ran for his first public office in 1976, narrowly defeating Democratic Sen. Frank Moss.

In 1982, he held off challenger Ted Wilson, the Democratic mayor of Salt Lake City, to win a second term by a solid margin.

He was never seriously challenged again.

Orrin Grant Hatch was born in 1934 in Pittsburgh. He married Elaine Hanson in 1957 and graduated from Brigham Young University in 1959. He received a law degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1962 and was a partner in the law firm of Thomson, Rhodes and Grigsby in that city until 1969.

Later, he was a partner in the Salt Lake City firm Hatch & Plumb.

He is survived by his wife, Elaine, and their six children: Brent, Marcia, Scott, Kimberly, Alysa, and Jess.


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