January 1st, 2009
04:39 PM ET
13 years ago

Education senator, Claiborne Pell, dies

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/01/art.pell.gi.jpg caption="Claiborne Pell, Rhode Island's senator from 1961 to 1997, has died."](CNN) - Former Sen. Claiborne Pell, who was largely responsible for the Pell Grants for U.S. college students, died early Thursday morning at his home in Newport, Rhode Island, his family announced.

Pell, 90, "died peacefully in the presence of his wife Nuala and family members," the family statement said. He had suffered from Parkinson's disease for a number of years.

Born in New York City, Pell graduated from Princeton in 1940 and Columbia University in 1946, serving in the U.S. Coast Guard in between and later in the Coast Guard Reserve. Pell also worked for the State Department and as a foreign service officer from 1945 to 1952 in Czechoslovakia, Italy and Washington.

He was first elected to the Senate from Rhode Island in 1960, and served from January 3, 1961, to January 3, 1997, when he retired. He was the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 1987 to 1994, and was named U.S. delegate to the United Nations in 1997.

But Pell's great passion lay in education and the arts and humanities, believing that the country's people were its greatest asset. Largely through his efforts, Congress created the Pell Grants in 1973. He was the main sponsor of the bill creating the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. Salala

    Pell grants paid part of my way through two years at Howard University and got me started in grad school at GWU. To say that I am grateful does not even begin to describe how I feel about this opportunity and the difference I know it made in my life. Education was and still is the key that unlocks so many doors.

    January 1, 2009 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  2. Brenda

    Red @ 6:45 ET

    Don't be such a jerk.

    January 1, 2009 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  3. jorge

    A person coming from the Great state of Rhode island where i resided all my life i would like to say that this was a great tragedy for our state. He helped millions of people afford college. He is helping me right now pay for my college tution costs right now. May his family get the comfort and peace that they need on his well – lived life for the United states and for the state of rhode island. RIP Pell

    January 1, 2009 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  4. Proud American

    He sounds like he was a real bright man, this nation could use a few more just like him. Thank You Mr. Pell.
    "red" Maybe if your mom got off her back and got a real job she could always pay. Idiot.

    January 1, 2009 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  5. GuyInVA

    Rest in peace. His concern for the educational well being of this nation helped me attend and graduate college.

    January 1, 2009 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  6. MikeH

    A great and noble man.

    The kind of man the Republicans hate, for Claiborne was for education of the common American of uncommon ability. Republicans hate it when people are educated, they are aharder to manipulate.

    I hope there are many who step in to continue what Senator Pell started. America needs educated people to lead it out of the dark ages that the Republicans have plunged Amierica into.

    January 1, 2009 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  7. Klee, Irving, TX

    My condolences to the family of this good man. Thank you Fmr. Senator Pell for your dedication to Education and the creation of the Pell Grants. Because of the Pell Grants, I was able to pay half my way through college and graduate. Education is truly the key to opening so many doors to success and a bright future. I am eternally grateful and may you rest in peace sir!! God bless.

    January 1, 2009 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  8. Amber

    Rest in peace and God bless you Honorable Mr. Pell. Your leadership enabled me to attend college.
    There are few good men in this world, and your life's work makes you one of them.

    January 1, 2009 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  9. Texas Democrat

    If it wasn't for this man, I would not be able to go to college.
    Thank You Senator!

    January 1, 2009 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
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