William W. Scranton, 96, a patrician Republican who served as governor of Pennsylvania and sought in 1964 to wrest his party’s presidential nomination from Barry Goldwater, died Sunday of a cerebral hemorrhage at a retirement community in Montecito, Calif.
He was the scion of a long line of Scrantons who built a fortune in the northeast Pennsylvania city upon which they bestowed their name.
Politics for Scranton was an act of service, a duty rather than a passion. He served presidents in various capacities. But to many observers, his distaste for seeking power kept him from attaining more influential positions that he could have won, possibly even the White House.
Scranton carried his wealth humbly. Though he was heir to a fortune worth millions of dollars, he wore suits bought at Sears and Robert Hall. His resume, someone once noted, listed memberships in many civic organizations but none in social clubs.
“I wasn’t personally ambitious for power,” he once said.
Late in his term as governor, he declared with Shermanesque finality that he never would seek office — any office — again.
Except for hints he dropped that he would agree to be President Gerald R. Ford’s running mate in 1976, he kept that promise despite the urgings of his Republican backers. He had all the requisite credentials to be the Republicans’ answer to the Kennedys: intellectual ability, handsome looks, great wealth, unblemished character, a picture-book family.
It was in the early 1960s that Scranton basked in the national spotlight, as he was recruited by moderate and liberal Republicans appalled at the prospect of a Goldwater candidacy.
Though he lost his attempt to win the nomination from the Arizona senator, he became a hero to Republican liberals who believed the party was abandoning its heritage by caving in on such fundamentals as civil rights to appease the right.
Scranton campaigned for Goldwater during the election, but after his defeat he was an outspoken foe of right-wing influence on the Republican Party.
William Warren Scranton was born July 19, 1917, to Worthington and Marion Margery Scranton. His mother was a Republican national committeewoman from 1928 to 1953, and in the early 1940s was the party’s national vice chairman. By the time he was 9, young Bill Scranton was counting vote totals on election nights.
By 1960, Pennsylvania Republicans were talking him up for Congress. He declined to run until they convinced him that the nomination was his for the asking. Though the district was overwhelmingly Democratic and went for John F. Kennedy for president, he won by 16,000 votes.
In Congress, he voted with the Kennedy administration about half the time, compiling a record that was neither conservative nor liberal. Before his term was over, he was being pushed for governor.
His Democratic opponent, former Philadelphia Mayor Richardson Dilworth, conducted a savage campaign, calling his rival a “Little Lord Fauntleroy from the coal fields.” The Republican, who put his personal wealth at $8 million, proved an able campaigner, and defeated Dilworth by nearly 500,000 votes.
After leaving office, Scranton served on commissions under President Richard M. Nixon and succeeded Daniel Patrick Moynihan as ambassador to the United Nations under Ford.
In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife, Mary; a daughter, Susan Scranton Dawson; and sons Joseph C. and Peter K. Scranton.
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