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John Warner, longtime GOP senator for Virginia, has died at age 94

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John Warner
Former GOP Sen. John Warner in September 2016. Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images
  • Former Republican Sen. John Warner of Virginia died aged 94.

  • Warner died of heart failure at his Virginia home on Tuesday, his chief of staff said.

  • He served as Navy Secretary between 1972 and 1974, and was once married to Elizabeth Taylor.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Former Republican Sen. John Warner, who represented Virginia in the upper chamber for 30 years and became a leading voice on military affairs, has died at age 94.

Susan A. Magill, his former chief of staff, said on Wednesday that Warner died of heart failure at his Alexandria, Virginia, home on Tuesday, The Los Angeles Times reported.

"He was frail but had a lot of spirit until his last days," she said.

A World War II veteran who served as Navy Secretary from 1972 to 1974, Warner was first elected to the Senate in 1978, eventually serving five terms before announcing his retirement in 2007 and leaving the upper chamber in 2009.

Politicians throughout the state mourned the loss of the former lawmaker, who was a revered figure in the Commonwealth.

Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, a former Richmond mayor and former Virginia governor, reflected on the lasting impact that Warner had on his life.

"I am stunned at the loss of John Warner," he said. "Virginia has lost an unmatched leader, and my family has lost a dear friend. I consider it a deep honor to represent Virginia on the Armed Services Committee as John did, and I often think of him during Armed Services deliberations, wondering how he would handle the dilemmas of the day."

He added: "Not having John Warner to go to for advice leaves a big hole in my life. But we can all celebrate a public servant who stood on principle, made us proud, and exemplified the best of what politics can be."

Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, no relation, ran against Warner and lost in a what was a highly-competitive 1996 Senate race before being elected governor in 2001.

However, the two men later became good friends and Mark Warner succeeded John Warner in the Senate after the 2008 election. In 2014 and 2020, John Warner endorsed Mark Warner in his Senate re-election campaigns, despite being from opposing political parties.

"In Virginia, we expect a lot of our elected officials," Mark Warner said. "We expect them to lead, yet remain humble. We expect them to serve, but with dignity. We expect them to fight for what they believe in, but without making it personal. John Warner was the embodiment of all that and more. I firmly believe that we could use more role models like him today."

Warner was a centrist Republican whose six-year marriage to film icon Elizabeth Taylor brought a slice of Hollywood glamour to the Old Dominion when he campaigned for his first race in 1978.

The independent-minded Warner was enormously popular with Virginia voters, winning over conservatives, moderates, and even some liberal-leaning voters who valued his experience and stature in the Senate. In his last re-election campaign in 2002, he didn't even have a Democratic opponent and won with nearly 83% of the vote over two independent candidates.

Throughout Warner's career, he maintained working ties with presidents of both political parties, and his military acumen was widely respected as he became a high-profile Republican arbiter of international affairs.

Warner was chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee from 1999 to 2001 and again from 2003 to 2007.

In 2015, the Navy commissioned the USS John Warner, a Virginia-class attack submarine named after the former senator.

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