Fox News noted that the door was opened for Lautenberg’s initial run for the Senate 1982 when long-serving Democratic Sen. Harrison Williams resigned after being convicted of bribery in what became known as the Abscam scandal. During that sting operation, FBI agents posing as Arab sheiks offered bribes to government officials and seven members of Congress, including Williams, were convicted.
Lautenberg won the N.J. Democratic Senate primary that year, topping eight other candidates, and spent $4 million of his own money to defeat the popular Republican Rep. Millicent Fenwick.
After serving three terms in the Senate, Lautenberg announced his retirement in 2000. But two year later, when incumbent Democrat Sen. Robert Torricelli decided not to run for reelection, party leaders convinced Lautenberg to run again. He won the election and was reelected in 2008.
Born to poor Polish and Russian Jewish immigrants in Paterson, New Jersey, in 1924, Lautenberg joined the Army after graduating from high school and served in the Army Signal Corps in Europe during World War II. After the war, he attended Columbia University on the G.I. Bill and earned a degree in economics. He joined two boyhood friends in founding the nation’s first payroll services company, Automatic Data Processing, becoming ADP’s first full-time salesman and eventually chairman and CEO of the firm. The success of ADP made all three men millionaires.
Lautenberg was diagnosed with b-cell lymphoma, a cancer affecting his stomach, in February 2010. After several months of chemotherapy, he was declared cancer-free.
Lautenberg had suffered from physical ailments such as muscle fatigue and weakness in his legs in recent months. Back in February, he announced his decision to retire from the Senate following his current term, joking that he wanted to run for vice president in 2016.
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Photo of late Sen. Frank Lautenberg: AP Images