Ex-senator who helped rise Clinton and start political dynasty dies at 89

One of the titans of Arkansas politics, David Pryor, died Saturday at the age of 89.

Pryor, a Democrat, served several terms as a congressman, two terms as governor of Arkansas and 20 years as a U.S. senator before retiring from elected office in 1995.

Along the way, Pryor started a political dynasty — his son, Mark, became a U.S. senator — and was a key figure behind the rise of Bill Clinton, Arkansas’ most famous son.

Pryor first ran for office in 1966 and represented a new generation of Southern Democrats. He was a liberal who opposed segregation and was an early advocate for environmentalism.

In 1974, Pryor won the Democratic primary for governor of Arkansas by defeating former Governor Orval Faubus, the pro-segregation Democrat who gained international fame for calling in the National Guard to block black students from attending Central High School in Little Rock to go.

As governor, Pryor made his biggest mark by appointing significant numbers of Black and female officials to state government The New York Times.

But one of his lasting legacies was the elevation of Clinton, whom he tapped to serve as his attorney general while he was governor. In 1978, when Pryor won a seat in the U.S. Senate after being given a term-limited term as governor, Clinton won the election to succeed him in Little Rock. Ultimately, Pryor became one of Clinton’s biggest supporters in his campaigns for president.

Political observers in Arkansas credit Pryor with helping it remain Democratic long after other Southern states switched to the Republican column in the decades after the civil rights movement, according to the WashingtonPost.

But Arkansas is now solidly Republican. Pryor’s seat in the Senate is now held by arch-conservative Sen. Tom Cotton.

Mark Pryor, who lost to Cotton in 2014, confirmed the news of his father’s death; no reason was given. He told the Time that President Joe Biden called to speak with the Pryor family on Friday.

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