Edward Zorinsky

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Edward Zorinsky
United States Senator
from Nebraska
In office
December 28, 1976 – March 6, 1987
Preceded byRoman Hruska
Succeeded byDavid Karnes
Mayor of Omaha
In office
Preceded byEugene A. Leahy
Succeeded byRobert G. Cunningham
Personal details
Born(1928-11-11)November 11, 1928
Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.
DiedMarch 6, 1987(1987-03-06) (aged 58)
Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.
Political partyRepublican (before 1976)
Democratic (1976–1987)
Spouse(s)Cecile "Cece" Rottman[1]
Alma materUniversity of Minnesota
Creighton University
University of Nebraska
Harvard University
Military service
Branch/serviceUnited States Army
Years of service1949–1962

Edward Zorinsky (November 11, 1928 – March 6, 1987) was an American politician. A Democrat, he served as a U.S. Senator from Nebraska from 1976 until his death from a heart attack in Omaha, Nebraska in 1987. He was the first Jew elected to statewide office in Nebraska.[2]

Early life and career[edit]

Edward Zorinsky was born in Omaha, Nebraska to Sonia (née Feldman) and Hymie Zorinsky, both Russian-Jewish immigrants.[2][3] He received his early education at Saunders and Rosehill elementary schools in his native city, and graduated from Central High School in 1945.[4] He attended the University of Minnesota (1945-1946) and Creighton University (1946-1948) before completing his studies at the University of Nebraska, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry and zoology in 1949.[5]

For twenty-three years, Zorinsky worked in the wholesale tobacco and candy business.[5] He also served in the U.S. Army Reserve from 1949 to 1962.[4] He enrolled at Harvard University in 1966 to pursue his graduate work, and later served as a member of the Nebraska Judicial Qualifications Commission (1968-1971) and of the Board of Directors for Omaha Public Power District (1969-1973).[4] From 1973 to 1977, he served as Mayor of Omaha.[5] He earned a great deal of popularity due to his response to a blizzard and a series of tornadoes that hit Omaha in 1975.[2]

U.S. Senate[edit]

1977, Congressional Pictorial Directory

In 1976, Zorinsky, a hitherto lifelong Republican, decided to run for the U.S. Senate after 22-year incumbent Roman Hruska decided not to seek re-election. However, when it became apparent he would not win the Republican nomination, he switched parties and became a Democrat.[4] He defeated Hess Dyas, a former state party chairman, for the Democratic nomination.[6] In the general election, he defeated U.S. Representative John Y. McCollister by a margin of 53%-47%.[7] With his victory, he became the first Democratic Senator elected from Nebraska since 1934 and the first Jew ever to win a statewide election in Nebraska.[8]

Hruska resigned from the Senate on December 27, 1976, and Governor J. James Exon subsequently appointed Zorinsky to the seat he had won in November.[5] He was re-elected to a second term in 1982, receiving over 66% of the vote.[9] As a Senator, Zorinsky was a moderate to conservative Democrat, voting with Republicans on some significant issues. He was courted by the Republicans to rejoin their party in 1982. He hinted that he might indeed change parties in 1986, but ultimately never made the switch. Zorinsky served as chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs, in which position he advocated for financial and military assistance to the new Sandinista National Liberation Front regime in Nicaragua in 1979.[10]

Zorinsky died after suffering a heart attack at the 1987 Omaha Press Club ball. After his death, one of the largest man-made lakes in Nebraska was named after him. Ed Zorinsky Lake and the surrounding Zorinsky Lake Park are located in Douglas County, in the City of Omaha. The Edward Zorinsky Federal Building in Omaha is also named in his honor.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Washington Post
  2. ^ a b c Boffey, Philip M. (March 8, 1987). "EDWARD ZORINSKY, 58, DIES; U.S. SENATOR FROM NEBRASKA". The New York Times.
  3. ^ "United States Census, 1940", FamilySearch, retrieved March 8, 2018
  4. ^ a b c d Maisel, Louis Sandy; Forman, Ira N. (2001). Jews in American Politics. Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  5. ^ a b c d "ZORINSKY, Edward, (1928 - 1987)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  6. ^ Rosenbaum, David E. (March 21, 1976). "Both Parties Pinning Hopes on Vote for Congress". The New York Times.
  7. ^ "Statistics of the Presidential and Congressional Election of November 2, 1976" (PDF). Clerk of the United States House of Representatives.
  8. ^ "The Democrats Consolidate". The New York Times. November 4, 1976.
  9. ^ "Statistics of the Congressional Election of November 2, 1982" (PDF). Clerk of the United States House of Representatives.
  10. ^ "U.S. Senator Appeals For an Increase in Aid To Nicaragua Regime". The New York Times. August 8, 1979.
  11. ^ [1]
Political offices
Preceded by
Eugene A. Leahy
Mayor of Omaha
Succeeded by
Robert G. Cunningham
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Roman Hruska
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Nebraska
December 28, 1976 – March 6, 1987
Served alongside: Carl Curtis, J. James Exon
Succeeded by
David Karnes
Party political offices
Preceded by
Frank B. Morrison
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator (Class 1)
from Nebraska

1976, 1982
Succeeded by
Bob Kerrey