Former Wyo. US Sen. Malcolm Wallops dies at age 78

September 14, 2011 - 5:20 PM
Obit Wallop

FILE - In this Aug. 5, 1987 photo, Sen. Malcolm Wallop, R-Wyo., left, along with Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., center, and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Robert Dole, of Kansas talk with reporters outside the White House in Washington after a meeting with President Reagan. Wallop has died at age 78. The Republican who served in the Senate from 1977 to 1995 fought for

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Former Sen. Malcolm Wallop, who became a leading conservative voice during the Reagan era in fighting for space defense and a tough anti-communist policy in Central America, died Wednesday. He was 78.

Kerrie Kimmel of the Kane Funeral Home said Wallop died at his home near the small community of Big Horn in northern Wyoming. Family friend and Cody Enterprise Publisher Bruce McCormack said Wallop has been ill for the last couple of years.

Wallop served in the Senate from 1977 to 1995 and had an unusual resume for a western politician. He was part of the third generation of a Wyoming pioneer family, he graduated from Yale University, and his grandfather served in the English House of Lords.

"He was part of a remarkable Wyoming congressional delegation back in the 1980s, along with Dick Cheney and Al Simpson, the three of them were just remarkably powerful and effective," McCormack said. "It was unlike hardly any state. To have a delegation of that strength was just a real advantage to Wyoming."

Wallop gained a significant victory when President Reagan began pushing the spaced-based anti-missile defense concept. Wallop was among a group of conservatives who had espoused the plan for years before Reagan came to support it.

His 18 years in the Senate included time as the ranking Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources and Armed Services committees.

Wallop's campaign style caused amusement in the state but won him elections. When he first ran for the Senate, he ridiculed federal regulations in political advertisements by showing a cowboy riding across the range with a portable toilet on top of a pack horse.

Key legislation Wallop helped pass included an energy bill in 1992 and major portions of Reagan's tax cuts in 1981. In 1984, Wallop helped create the Wallop-Breaux Trust Fund, an account used to finance state fisheries and boating programs. The fund uses money raised through special fees and taxes on fishing gear and motorboat fuels.

Wallop didn't seek re-election in 1994, but remained active politically as director of the conservative Frontiers of Freedom Foundation think tank.

In 2000, Wallop's wife, French Wallop, filed for divorce after 18 years of marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2004 allowed Malcolm Wallop to keep his family ranch, then valued at $4.6 million. He was married four times in all.

Wallop was born Feb. 27, 1933 in New York City — his rancher parents were there for only a brief time — and attended Big Horn School and Cate School, a private boarding school in Carpinteria, Calif. He graduated from Yale in 1954.

Wallop served in the U.S. Army from 1954 to 1957 and returned to Wyoming to ranch.

He served two terms in the Wyoming House, from 1969 to 1972, and one term in the Wyoming Senate, from 1973 to 1976. He ran for Wyoming governor in 1974, losing in the Republican primary.

His Senate tenure included several prominent assignments. He was chairman of the Select Committee On Ethics from 1981 to 1983 during the trial of New Jersey Democrat Harrison A. Williams Jr. on Abscam bribery charges. Wallop was the first non-lawyer to serve on the Judiciary Committee.

He is survived by his wife, Isabel, and four children.

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Associated Press writers Mead Gruver and Ben Neary in Cheyenne contributed to this report.