Frank Lautenberg, the last World War II veteran to serve in the U.S. Senate, was buried Friday with military honors in a rain-drenched ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
The Democrat from New Jersey served in the Army Signal Corps during the war. He spent nearly three decades in the Senate and was its oldest member when he died Monday at 89, after suffering complications from viral pneumonia.
Lautenberg was buried on a hillside near the gravesite of President John F. Kennedy. A bugler played "Taps" and soldiers fired three rifle volleys in his honor.
After serving in the Army, Lautenberg got help from the GI Bill and earned an undergraduate degree from Columbia University. He ran for the Senate in 1982 after amassing a fortune as a founder of a payroll company, spending $3 million of his own money to beat Republican Rep. Millicent Fenwick in an upset.
Climbing the Senate seniority ladder, Lautenberg was a strong advocate on issues such as gun control, environmental protections and transportation. He wrote the laws banning smoking on domestic airline flights and setting the national minimum drinking age of 21.
Health problems had forced Lautenberg to miss many votes this year. In April, he returned to the chamber in a wheelchair for votes on gun legislation.
Lautenberg’s Senate colleagues remembered him for his leadership and laughter.
A long line of lawmakers, ex-lawmakers and other dignitaries, including Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, paid their final respects to Lautenberg after his flag-draped casket was carried up the Capitol steps by a nine-member military color guard Thursday.
New York Sen. Chuck Schumer said Lautenberg knew about four jokes and told them often but that his laughter was contagious. Others praised his tenacity.
A special election will be held to serve out the rest of Lautenberg's term in the Senate. In the meantime, Gov. Chris Christie appointed Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa to fill the seat.