R.I.P. Gaylord Nelson

Former US Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-WI), founder of the Earth Day movement, has passed away.

Gaylord A. Nelson, one of the architects of America's modern environmental movement who as a United States senator from Wisconsin founded Earth Day to protest degradation and launch a national legislative campaign to improve stewardship, died today in at his home in Kensington, Md. He was 89 years old,

. . . A liberal Democrat, Mr. Nelson was known for his candor and independence. He was just one of three United States senators who voted against the $700 million appropriation that began the nation's expanded involvement in the Vietnam War.

But it was Mr. Nelson's lifelong devotion to the natural landscape that distinguished him as one of Capitol Hill's early and ardent environmental leaders. On March 25, 1963, in his first Senate speech, he framed the declining condition of the nation's air and water as a national issue. "We need a comprehensive and nationwide program to save the national resources of America," he said. "Our soil, our water, and our air are becoming more polluted every day. Our most priceless natural resources - trees, lakes, rivers, wildlife habitats, scenic landscapes - are being destroyed."

The speech coincided with Mr. Nelson's private effort to successfully lobby President John F. Kennedy to embrace environmental protection as a priority. In September 1963, Mr. Kennedy embarked on a five-day, 11-state tour to talk about conservation.

. . . In 1995, President Bill Clinton awarded Mr. Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. "As the father of Earth Day, he is the grandfather of all that grew out of that event," Mr. Clinton said. "He inspired us to remember that the stewardship of our natural resources is the stewardship of the American Dream."


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