The U.S. Institute of Peace mourns the passing of Senator Richard Lugar, a Navy veteran who represented Indiana in the U.S. Senate for over three decades. As a long-time member, and two-time chair, of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Lugar’s leadership on foreign policy issues—such as nuclear disarmament and sanctions on apartheid South Africa—made the world a safer, more peaceful place.

Senator Richard Lugar
Senator Lugar at USIP's Passing the Baton, January 8, 2009.

“Senator Lugar was a passionate supporter of USIP’s mission and a loyal friend to the Institute,” said USIP President Nancy Lindborg. “His partnership with Senator Nunn was a model of bipartisan commitment to national security.”

The Rise of a Statesman

Born in Indianapolis in 1932, Richard Green Lugar was elected mayor of Indianapolis at 35. Lugar’s popularity in Indiana led to his 1976 election as a U.S. senator, which began a celebrated 36-year tenure in Washington.

He quickly established himself as one of the most influential figures in U.S. foreign policy. Lugar, a Republican, was known who for both his mastery of foreign affairs and his bipartisan approach to governance that sought to solve problems rather than engage in political fights.

As a member of both the Agricultural and Foreign Relations committees, he led efforts to eliminate hunger and improve nutrition for children—both in the U.S. and abroad.

After serving as an observer for the Philippines’ 1986 elections, Lugar used his position as chairman to shift U.S. policy toward the island nation, which resulted in renewed U.S. commitment to democracy and free and fair elections in the country. Lugar also championed sanctions against apartheid South Africa, guiding the proposed measures through a veto override—a move Nelson Mandela praised as integral to ending apartheid.  

Principled, Bipartisan Leadership

True to his nature as a bipartisan statesman, Lugar achieved his signature accomplishment in tandem with Democratic Senator Sam Nunn. Together, the two crafted the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program to address nuclear disarmament after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Considered one of the most important foreign policy agreements in the post-Cold War era, the Nunn-Lugar program was directly responsible for the deactivation of over 7,000 nuclear warheads and the dismantling of nearly 1,000 ICBMs. In negotiating the agreement, the two senators managed to not only bridge a partisan divide, they persuaded Russia to work with a one-time adversary.

Senator Lugar continued his role as standard-bearer for bipartisanship throughout the rest of his career. In 2005, Lugar brought then-Senator Barack Obama on a trip to Russia, Azerbaijan, and Ukraine. The trip built a unique relationship, eventually leading to their co-sponsoring the Lugar-Obama Proliferation and Threat Reduction Initiative that built on Lugar’s work with Nunn.

In 2013, Obama awarded Lugar the Presidential Medal of Freedom, remarking that Lugar “stands as a model of what public service ought to be.”

A Long-time Supporter of Peace

Senator Lugar, who once said that “a gentle, thoughtful, persuasive, persistent but wise course of action is a winner,” frequently provided support to USIP and its mission. On the Institute’s 20th anniversary, Senator Lugar recognized USIP’s important role in U.S. policy, telling those gathered for the celebration that “peace is not a static concept, it’s a living concept of issues that are here now … and we support all of your efforts.”

In 2009, Senator Lugar lent his voice once again to USIP’s mission, helping to bridge the gap between the incoming Democratic administration and the outgoing Republican one during USIP’s 2009 Passing the Baton conference.

After leaving the Senate in 2012, he founded the Lugar Center, which sponsors research on the issues Lugar worked on in office, including world hunger and nuclear proliferation.

The Institute extends our deepest condolences to his family.

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