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Life and Career of Richard G. Lugar

A fifth-generation Hoosier, Richard Green Lugar was born in Indianapolis on April 4, 1932, to Marvin and Bertha Lugar. In their childhood, he and his two siblings enjoyed playing sports and music, but they also worked hard at their chores and on the family farm. Shortly after his twelfth birthday, Lugar joined the Boy Scouts of America and attained the rank of Eagle Scout two years later. He attended Shortridge High School in Indianapolis and then Denison University in Ohio, graduating first in his class from both schools. It was at Denison that he met his future wife, Charlene Smeltzer, when the two served as co-presidents of the student government council.

While at Denison, Lugar became the school’s first student to earn a Rhodes scholarship, which allowed him to enroll at Oxford University in England in 1954. While still abroad, he volunteered for the United States Navy and became an intelligence briefer for the Chief of Naval Operations. In 1960, a few years after his father’s death, Lugar returned to Indiana to help manage the two family businesses, the family farm and Thomas L. Green & Company, a factory that produced machinery for the baking and snack food industry. His activities gained him local recognition, and he was elected to the Indianapolis Board of School Commissioners.

Lugar’s election to the Indianapolis school board in 1964 was the first step on his long road of public service. In 1967, he was elected Mayor of Indianapolis, and he served two terms in that role before winning a seat in 1976 as United States Senator from Indiana. He served in the Senate until 2012.

Lugar’s early experiences, such as being a student at Oxford and an intelligence briefer with the Navy, demonstrated to him the importance of combining Hoosier values with a global perspective. His Senate career embodied this combination, and he devoted himself primarily to two committees, the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry and the Committee on Foreign Relations.

During his earliest Senate campaigns, Lugar promised that if elected, his priority would be to secure a seat on the Agriculture Committee. His ties to his own family farm and to Indiana, an agricultural state, made work on that committee particularly relevant for him. He kept that campaign promise, and he served on the Agriculture Committee every year that he was in the Senate. He pointed out that he was often one of very few people on the committee who had ever actually been a farmer. He served as Chair of the committee from 1995 to 2000, and he was responsible for crafting important legislation such as the 1996 Freedom to Farm Act, which allowed farmers to decide which crops to plant based on market demand rather than government subsidies.

Lugar often stated that national security could not be separated from foreign policy. He became a member of the Committee on Foreign Relations soon after he started in the Senate and served on it for the remainder of his career. He served twice as chairman, from 1985 to 1987 and from 2003 to 2007. He was involved in drafting anti-apartheid legislation to bring sanctions against South Africa, overseeing democratic elections in the Philippines, and participating in reconstruction efforts after the war in Iraq. Most notably, Lugar and Senator Sam Nunn developed the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which provided funding and expertise to countries of the former Soviet Union to enable them to dismantle and destroy their nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. Richard Lugar and Sam Nunn were nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts.

His service on both committees allowed Lugar to propose legislation in the areas of greatest concern to him. In addition to working in the fields of arms control and nuclear threat reduction, he developed initiatives related to food security, environmental conservation, the development of renewable fuel sources, education, health and fitness, and global HIV/AIDS awareness.

In addition to the Agriculture Committee and the Committee on Foreign Relations, Lugar also served as a member of the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; the Select Committee on Intelligence; and the Arms Control Observer Group.