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Former U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter dies

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Former U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter. (Source: MGN) Former U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter. (Source: MGN)

(RNN) - Former U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, an outspoken Republican-turned-Democrat from Pennsylvania, has died at 82.

Specter confirmed in August that he had been battling cancer, the latest of multiple bouts with the disease. He underwent chemotherapy for Hodgkin's disease in 2005 and again in 2008.

His son, Shanin, confirmed that Specter died at his Philadelphia home from complications from the disease, according to the Associated Press.

John McCain called Specter "a dear friend who served his state and nation with honor and distinction," via Twitter.

Specter, a Kansas native, was largely reviled by people in both major parties for a style that disregarded party alliances.

His election into the Senate in 1980 began a 30-year career that ended soon after he crossed to the Democratic side.

Pennsylvania's longest-serving senator was a member of 14 confirmation hearings of U.S. Supreme Court nominees.

"During his tenure in the Senate, Specter championed Pennsylvania's economy and took an active interest in foreign affairs, meeting with dozens of world leaders as well as supporting appropriations to fight the global HIV/AIDS pandemic and backing free trade agreements between the U.S. and under-developed countries," read a bio from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Specter also served on the Warren Commission that investigated the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Specter was credited with creating the "single bullet theory" - also called the magic bullet theory. The committee's finding was that Texas Gov. John Connally, who was sitting in front of Kennedy at the time he was shot, was hit and wounded with the same bullet that killed the president.

Specter's emboldened stance on several issues alienated him from the Republican party the further he got into his career.

He applied a defiance to convention in everything he did, especially his two biggest battlefronts - politics and his health.

"If I run in 2010 and win and go again in 2016, win, go again in the year 2022, and I'm up for re-election in 2028," Specter once said in an interview. "At that point I'll be younger than Strom Thurmond was when he was still serving in the U.S. Senate."

But those best-laid plans were not meant to be.

He claimed the GOP had become too extreme in its right-wing values and switched parties in 2009. He lost his 2010 bid for re-election, bringing his political career to an end.

Specter was born in Wichita, KS, on Feb. 12, 1930 to an American mother and Ukrainian immigrant father.

He served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania and later earned a degree from Yale Law School.

Prior to his death, he had served as an instructor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Spencer's career in politics began in the 1960s when he served as an assistant district attorney for Philadelphia. After completion of his work for the Warren Commission, he won the election to become Philadelphia's district attorney.

In between that election and his 1980 campaign, he unsuccessfully ran for mayor, Pennsylvania governor and Senate.

Specter is survived by his wife, Joan, his two sons, Shanin and Steve, and four granddaughters.

His funeral scheduled for Tuesday in Penn Valley, PA, is open to the public, and his burial will follow in Huntingdon Valley, Pa.

Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

Former U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, an outspoken Republican-turned-Democrat from Pennsylvania, has died at 82.
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