American consumers lost one of their great champions Wednesday night when former Ohio Sen. Howard Metzenbaum died at his Florida home. As the Associated Press describes him, “He was a cantankerous firebrand who didn’t need a microphone to hold a full auditorium spellbound while dropping rhetorical bombs on big oil companies, the insurance industry, savings and loans, and the National Rifle Association, to name just a few favorite targets.” Sen. Metzenbaum was also a member of Public Citizen’s board of directors.
He served 19 years in the U.S. Senate, representing Ohio until he stepped down in 1995. During his time in office, the Cleveland native rose to become one of the most influential and outspoken Democrats in the Senate, where he championed anti-trust and consumer issues. After leaving the Senate, he served as the chairman of Consumer Federation of America, an advocacy group that represents some 300 nonprofit organizations across the nation.
A graduate of Ohio State University’s school of law, he practiced law in Cleveland in the 1940s, mostly for labor unions; first the Communications Workers of America and then the International Association of Machinists. Sen. Metzenbaum’s career in public office includes serving in the Ohio House of Representatives and Ohio Senate in the 1940s and 50s. In 1974, he was appointed by the governor to fill the unexpired term of U.S. Sen. William B. Saxbe. Afterwards, Metzenbaum won election to the Senate in 1976 by defeating incumbent Sen. Robert Taft Jr.
[Update: Click here to read Joan Claybrook’s post on Sen. Metzenbaum]