Robert Stafford

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For other people named Robert Stafford, see Robert Stafford (disambiguation).
Robert Stafford
Robert Theodore Stafford.jpg
United States Senator
from Vermont
In office
September 16, 1971 – January 3, 1989
Served alongside: George Aiken, Patrick Leahy
Preceded by Winston L. Prouty
Succeeded by Jim Jeffords
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Vermont's At-large district
In office
January 3, 1961 – September 16, 1971
Preceded by William H. Meyer
Succeeded by Richard W. Mallary
71st Governor of Vermont
In office
January 8, 1959 – January 5, 1961
Lieutenant Robert S. Babcock
Preceded by Joseph B. Johnson
Succeeded by F. Ray Keyser, Jr.
65th Lieutenant Governor of Vermont
In office
Governor Joseph B. Johnson
Preceded by Consuelo N. Bailey
Succeeded by Robert S. Babcock
Vermont Attorney General
In office
Governor Joseph B. Johnson
Preceded by F. Elliott Barber
Succeeded by Frederick M. Reed
Personal details
Born Robert Theodore Stafford
(1913-08-08)August 8, 1913
Rutland, Vermont
Died December 23, 2006(2006-12-23) (aged 93)
Rutland, Vermont
Political party Republican
Profession Lawyer / Politician

Robert Theodore Stafford (August 8, 1913 – December 23, 2006) was an American politician from Vermont. In his lengthy career, he served as the 71st Governor of Vermont, a United States Representative, and a U.S. Senator. A Republican, Stafford was generally considered a liberal Rockefeller Republican.

Stafford is best remembered for his staunch environmentalism, his work on higher education, and his support, as an elder statesman, for the 2000 Vermont law legalizing civil unions for gay couples.

Early life[edit]

Stafford was born in Rutland, Vermont to Bert Linus Stafford and Mabel R. (Stratton) Stafford.[1]

He earned his diploma from Middlebury College in 1935. He briefly attended the University of Michigan Law School, and earned a law degree from the Boston University Law School in 1938.[2] While attending Middlebury College he joined The Delta Upsilon Fraternity.


Upon his completion of law school, Stafford immediately entered local politics, serving as Rutland County's prosecuting attorney from 1938 to 1942. In 1942, he commissioned in the Navy as a lieutenant commander, and served in active duty during World War II. He returned to Rutland County to become State's attorney from 1947 to 1951, but returned to the Navy again in 1951, serving in the Korean War from 1951 to 1953.[3]

Returning home again in 1953, he entered Vermont statewide politics, serving as deputy attorney general for the state from 1953 to 1955, and attorney general from 1955 to 1957. In 1956, he was elected lieutenant governor, and in 1958 was elected governor.

Official Vermont State House portrait

Following this quick rise to the top of Vermont state politics, he was elected to Vermont's lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1960, winning five successive elections.[4]

In September 1971, he resigned his seat in Congress to accept appointment to the Senate to temporarily fill the vacancy caused by the death in office of Winston L. Prouty. Stafford won the special election of January 1972 to serve out the rest of Prouty's term, and won two successive elections, serving in the Senate for slightly over 17 years, until his retirement in 1989. He chaired the Committee on Environment and Public Works from 1981 to 1987.

While in Congress, he helped pass a law, now known as the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, to coordinate federal natural disaster assistance.

Stafford's support of weapons sales to Nicaraguan contras led to the Winooski 44 protest.

Death and legacy[edit]

In 1988, Congress renamed the Federal Guaranteed Student Loan program the Robert T. Stafford Student Loan program, in honor of his work on higher education.[5]

In 2007, Congress renamed the White Rocks National Recreation Area in the State of Vermont as the "Robert T. Stafford White Rocks National Recreation Area."[6]

Stafford died in his hometown of Rutland on December 23, 2006 and is interred at Evergreen Cemetery in Rutland.[7] His wife Helen Stafford died February 27, 2011, at the age of 93.


  1. ^ "Stafford, Robert Theodore (1913-2006)". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved October 10, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Vermont Governor Robert T. Stafford". National Governors Association. Retrieved October 10, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Robert Theodore Stafford". Find A Grave. Retrieved October 10, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Sen. Robert Stafford". Retrieved October 10, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Student Loan 101: All About Stafford Loans". The Street Network. Retrieved October 10, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Congressional Record 109th Congress (2005-2006)". The Library of Congress. Retrieved October 10, 2012. 
  7. ^ "Robert Theodore Stafford". Find A Grave. Retrieved October 10, 2012. 

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
F. Elliott Barber
Vermont Attorney General
Succeeded by
Frederick M. Reed
Political offices
Preceded by
Consuelo N. Bailey
Lieutenant Governor of Vermont
Succeeded by
Robert S. Babcock
Preceded by
Joseph B. Johnson
Governor of Vermont
Succeeded by
F. Ray Keyser, Jr.
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
William H. Meyer
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Vermont's at-large congressional district

Succeeded by
Richard W. Mallary
United States Senate
Preceded by
Winston L. Prouty
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Vermont
Served alongside: George Aiken, Patrick Leahy
Succeeded by
James Jeffords
Preceded by
Jennings Randolph
Chairman of Senate Environment and
Public Works Committee

Succeeded by
Quentin N. Burdick