Who Is Dale Bumpers? The Former U.S. Senator And Arkansas Governor Died At 90

Former Arkansas governor, U.S. senator, and Bill Clinton supporter Dale Bumpers died Friday following a long battle with Alzheimer's disease at 90. Bumpers, a Democrat, was a prominent politician in his home state of Arkansas, where he served as governor between 1971 and 1975. After being elected to Congress, Bumpers saw his national political star rise, becoming one of the most respected politicians from Arkansas.

Born in Charleston, Arkansas, Bumpers attended the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville before serving in the Marines Corps during World War II. After graduating from Northwestern University Law School, Bumpers served as a lawyer in his home state before rising from obscurity to the governor's mansion in 1970.

The little-known Bumpers defeated incumbent Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller, a member of the wealthy Rockefeller family and Arkansas' first Republican governor since the Reconstruction era, in a landslide election. In 1975, Bumpers beat out J. William Fulbright, Clinton's mentor who served five terms in the U.S. Senate, and moved on to Washington, D.C. He held his seat in the Senate for more than two decades, defeating future Arkansas governors — and Republicans — Mike Huckabee and Asa Hutchinson.

During the 1980s, Bumpers was a contender for the Democratic presidential ticket, where he would have been the running mate to Walter Mondale. However, Bumpers turned down the opportunity, and stayed in the U.S. Senate until his retirement in January 1999.

Bumpers publicly defended Clinton, then serving as president of the United States, during his impeachment trial in 1999. The House of Representatives had charged Clinton with perjury and obstruction of justice for lying about his sexual relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky under oath. Bumpers, who had recently retired, returned to Congress to deliver a fiery speech defending his long-time friend and colleague.

"There is a very big difference in perjury about a marital infidelity in a divorce case and perjury about whether I bought the murder weapon or whether I concealed the murder weapon or not," Bumpers said in his speech. "There’s a total lack of proportionality, a total lack of balance, in this thing. The charge and the punishment are totally out of sync."

Bill and Hillary Clinton released a statement on Saturday on Bumpers' passing. The Clinton's called Bumpers a "governor of profound historical importance" and an "eloquent defender." The Clinton's continued:

For more than 40 years, Hillary and I cherished his friendship. I am grateful that his advice made me a better governor and President, and that we laughed at each other's jokes even when we'd heard them before. ... I loved him. I loved learning from him and laughing with him.