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Bar News - November 16, 2012

In Memoriam: Sen. John A. Durkin

John A. Durkin
Former US Sen. John A. Durkin, 76, a longtime resident of Manchester and more recently of the NH Veterans Home in Tilton, passed away Oct. 16, 2012, at Franklin Regional Hospital after a brief illness.

Born March 29, 1936, in Brookfield, Mass., Durkin was the youngest of four children. His parents believed the highest calling in life was to become a priest, and the second-highest calling was to be an honest politician. Those who knew him best were not surprised he chose politics.

Durkin held his first elective office - Brookfield Town Moderator - at age 18. He attended the College of the Holy Cross through the US Navy ROTC program and graduated in 1959. He received his law degree from Georgetown University Law Center in 1965.

Durkin was assistant NH attorney general from 1966 to 1968 and state insurance commissioner from 1968 to 1973, frequently making headlines fighting insurance companies on behalf of consumers.

Durkin served as Democratic US senator from New Hampshire from 1975 until 1980. Highlights of his Senate career included his work on energy independence, alternative energy sources and preserving Alaska lands for generations to come.

Durkin may be best remembered for the circumstances surruounding his election to the US Senate, which was as colorful as his life. The initial vote tally in November 1974 showed Republican US Rep. Louis Wyman ahead by 335 votes, before a recount put Durkin up by 10 votes, prompting an appeal to the state Ballot Law Commission. After the commission ruled that Wyman won by two votes, Durkin appealed to the US Senate, which handed the matter to its rules committee, which then sent it back to the full Senate. After 30 days of discussion, 32 roll-call votes and a record-setting six cloture votes to cut off debate, the Senate declared the seat vacant on July 30, 1975, and returned the race to New Hampshire for a Sept. 16 run-off. Durkin won by 27,000 votes and was sworn in two days later.

Durkin was defeated in 1980 by Republican Warren Rudman. He ran again in 1990 but lost to Republican Bob Smith. In later years, he worked as an attorney in Manchester and Washington.

Durkin is survived by his three children, Andrea of Louisville, Colo.; John, an attorney in Portsmouth; and Sheilagh of South Berwick, Maine; their spouses; and four grandsons.

A service will be held at Arlington Cemetery later this year.

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