Arlen Specter (February 12, 1930 – October 14, 2012) was an American lawyer, author, and politician who served as United States Senator for Pennsylvania. Specter was a Democrat from 1951 to 1965, then a Republican from 1965 until 2009, when he switched back to the Democratic Party. First elected in 1980, he represented Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate for 30 years.
Specter was born in Wichita, Kansas, to emigrant Russian Jewish parents. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and served with the United States Air Force during the Korean War. Specter later graduated from Yale Law School and opened a law firm with Marvin Katz, who would later become a federal judge. Specter served as assistant counsel for the Warren Commission investigating the assassination of John F. Kennedy and helped devise the “single-bullet theory”. In 1965, Specter was elected District Attorney of Philadelphia, a position that he held until 1973.
During his 30-year Senate career, Specter staked out a spot in the political center. In 2006, he was selected by Time as one of America’s Ten Best Senators. Specter lost his 2010 re-election bid in the Democratic primary to former U.S. Navy vice admiral Joe Sestak, who then lost to Republican Pat Toomey in the general election. Toomey succeeded Specter on January 3, 2011.
Diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in early 2005, he continued his work in the Senate while undergoing chemotherapy. He later died of complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma on October 14, 2012.