On Saturday, Orrin Hatch died in Salt Lake City at the age of 88. Having served in the Senate for a remarkable 42 years before retiring in 2019, Hatch had one of the most accomplished careers as a legislator and public servant in American history.
Yet few people know that Hatch was a true Renaissance man, someone with an interest in many areas of life and a demonstrated history of achievement. Some of the most interesting accomplishments of one of the greatest patriots of the past century came outside of the Senate.
Here are some things you may not have known about Orrin Hatch, the great senator from Utah.
1. He was a truly accomplished songwriter.
A trained pianist and lover of poetry, Hatch wrote hundreds of songs. The good ol’ Internet Archive Wayback Machine has some of them here.
According to The Washington Post, Hatch, an ardent Mormon, didn’t start songwriting until he was 62 years old, but from that point onward he was prolific, to say the least.
While he wasn’t always a songwriter, his love of music was always an important facet of his life. As a young man, he was the manager of a Mormon band called Free Agency.
2. He was a very good amateur boxer.
With 11 bouts under his belt, Hatch showed promise as a boxer. He liked to refer to his boxing past as a politician, claiming that he always brought his fighting spirit with him to political battles. Hatch also enjoyed team sports and was captain of his high school basketball team.
3. He was quite a clothes horse.
Hatch was among the best-dressed politicians of our era. His sense of style was conservative — no pun intended — yet he knew how to accessorize. More than any politician in our collective memory, Hatch always seemed to be perfectly dressed for the moment, which is the definition of true style.
While his life outside the Senate was rich and full, his legacy was his work. As The New York Times mentioned on Sunday in his obituary, there is no one who left a similar imprint on today’s judiciary:
“While he helped craft the court’s majority, he was hard to gauge on nominees. He voted for the conservatives Antonin Scalia (1986), Clarence Thomas (1991), John G. Roberts Jr. (chief justice, 2005), Samuel Alito (2006), Mr. Gorsuch (2017) and Mr. Kavanaugh (2018), and against the liberals Sonia Sotomayor (2009) and Elena Kagan (2010). But he also voted for Anthony Kennedy, a swing vote (1988), David H. Souter (1990), a George Bush nominee who became a member of the court’s liberal wing, and for two liberals, Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1993) and Stephen Breyer (1994).”
As a politician, Hatch was a Republican who deeply understood the nuances of partisan politics; his skill in navigating that line when it was expedient to do so was unparalleled.
By his own admission, as a person Hatch was “complex.” From his roots in working-class Pittsburgh where one wall of his house was a billboard to working as a janitor to get through law school, the notion of work and commitment always oriented Hatch. Working 18-hour days for close to 30 years, he always found the time to enjoy life and excel in many aspects of it.
No matter one’s political allegiance, there are few people in modern American political history more worthy of respect than Orrin Hatch.
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