Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), the last World War II veteran to serve in the Senate and a longtime supporter of public broadcasting, died today from complications from viral pneumonia, according to a statement from his office. The five-term senator was 89.
During his tenure, Lautenberg served on the two Senate committees with the greatest influence over pubcasting: the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and the Appropriations Committee. He consistently voted in the best interests of pubcasting.
Lautenberg was particularly vocal about pubcasting matters related to his home state. In 2011, when New York’s WNET was preparing to acquire the former New Jersey Network statewide pubTV licensee and turn it into NJTV, he met with then–FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to question whether the sale was “in the best interests of New Jerseyans.”
Pat Butler, president of the Association of Public Television Stations, expressed his condolences. Lautenberg was “a staunch and stalwart champion of public broadcasting and our mission of education, public safety, well-informed citizenship and the preservation of American history and culture,” Butler said Monday in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, and our gratitude to Senator Lautenberg for his unwavering support of NJTV and local public broadcasters nationwide.”