Former United States Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania centrist whose right-to-left political party affiliation flip-flop (in 2009),from Republican to Democrat, ended a 30-year career in which he played a pivotal role in myriad Supreme Court nominations, died Sunday at his home, at the age of 82.
He was battling non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Prior to the deadly disease to which he succumbed, he had fought two previous bouts with Hodgkin's disease, overcome a brain tumor and even survived cardiac arrest following bypass surgery. In February 2005, when diagnosed with stage IV Hodgkin's disease, a cancer of the lymphatic system, he told the press, "I have beaten a brain tumor, bypass heart surgery and many tough political opponents and I'm going to beat this, too."
Earlier this year, Specter released his memoir "Life Among the Cannibals," which detailed his decision to support Obama's stimulus plan, how he was shunned by the GOP, and the rise of the far-right Tea Party movement.
Specter, who was Jewish, became a notable American politician in the 1960s as an assistant counsel to the Warren Commission. He developed the single-bullet theory that posited that just one bullet struck both President Kennedy and Texas Gov. John Connally.
Arlen Specter was Pennsylvania's longest-serving senator when Democrats picked then-U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak over him in the 2010 primary. Specter, who endorsed the campaign of U.S. President Barack Obama, had entered the Senate during the Reagan landslide of 1980.
The U.S. politician was born in Wichita, Kansas on February 12, 1930. Specter left Kansas for college in 1947 because the University of Kansas, where his chums were all going, did not have Jewish fraternities. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1951 and Yale law school in 1956. He served in the Air Force from 1951 to 1953 during the Korean War. Specter's father grew up in the Bachkuryne village in Ukraine.
Soon after the 2004 election, he spoke out publically about the direction the Supreme Court was headed saying, "When you talk about judges who would change the right of a woman to choose, overturn Roe v. Wade, I think [confirmation] is unlikely. The president is well aware of what happened, when a number of his nominees were sent up, with the filibuster ... And I would expect the president to be mindful of the considerations which I am mentioning."