Rupert Vance Hartke, a three-term Indiana senator, died on July 27 of heart failure. He was 84.
Hartke served in the Coast Guard and as a Navy officer during World War II. When his military service ended, he earned a law degree from Indiana University, set up his own law practice and became the mayor of Evansville, Ind. He was best known for integrating the town’s swimming pools during his two-year tenure.
Hartke was elected to the Senate in 1958 as a hard-working, liberal Democrat with good connections to President Lyndon B. Johnson. Those connections landed him on the Finance and Commerce committees. During his first term, Hartke lobbied for programs like Medicare and Medicaid, and supported the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Hartke helped create student loan programs and new veterans benefits during his second term. He ordered automakers to equip cars with seat belts and helped to establish Amtrak. In 1970, after a tight race and a ballot recount, Hartke won a third term. He briefly considered a run for the presidency, but couldn’t secure the Democratic nomination.
His opposition to the Vietnam War led to the publication of two books — “The American Crisis in Vietnam” and “You and Your Senator” — and a fallout with President Johnson and President Richard Nixon. It also cost him his Senate seat in 1976.
Hartke then set up a law practice in Falls Church, Va. In 1994, he was indicted by a grand jury in Indiana for polling violations. As part of a plea agreement, Hartke received a six-month suspended sentence.