Former Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Howard O. Greene Jr. died at his home in Alexandria, Va., Sunday at the age of 73.
According to Greene's ex-wife Elizabeth Letchworth, his death was very unexpected. Greene died from an aggressive infection in his stomach. Letchworth said he was surrounded by family and friends when he died.
Greene first came to the Senate as a door messenger at age 26 and served the chamber for the next 28 years. The Delaware native retired from the Senate in 1996, stepping down as Senate sergeant-at-arms and doorkeeper, the chief law enforcement and administrative officer elected by senators.
“Howard quickly gained the confidence of senators as he rose rapidly through the ranks," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on the floor Monday afternoon. "His deep institutional knowledge, strong work ethic, honesty, and sense of humor were appreciated by those who worked with him — and his talents were essential for the many who relied upon him."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., also expressed his fondness for Greene, whom he remembered always chewing on a cigar.
"I offer my condolences to Howard Greene's family and his loved ones during this difficult time," said Reid. "I hope they know how grateful we are for Howard's many years of service. He will be greatly missed and he was very kind and thoughtful to me as a new senator."
According to the Senate Historical Office, Green was born on June 1, 1941 in Lewes, Del., and joined the Republican Party in college. After earning his associate's degree from Wesley College, he attended the University of Maryland.
"He originally intended to become a history teacher," said McConnell. "But over time, his ambitions changed — from wanting to teach about history to wanting to help shape it. And what a lucky break for the Senate."
Greene rose up the ladder of Senate staffers from a door messenger to secretary for the Republicans when they were in the majority and minority of the Senate. He was nominated to be the top law enforcement and administrative officer in 1994 by then-Senate Republican Leader Bob Dole.
"Howard's experience in the Senate, his respect for the institution, and his administrative skills make him an ideal candidate for Sergeant at Arms," Dole said in a release announcing Greene's nomination 20 years ago.
When Greene retired in 1996, the late Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, brought a resolution to the floor giving him two months of severance pay, which passed. Along with the resolution, Stevens and nine other senators rose to pay tribute to the longtime Senate staffer.
The late-Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., was one of the senators who spoke, and he said he always enjoyed seeing Greene around the Senate floor.
"That familiar sight when he would come out of those double doors, straighten his tie and adjust his coat and walk down that step," said Specter. "He was always busy. Howard Greene was really a great aid and comfort to all the senators. When the going got rough, I would call him in the evening or call him on the weekends, and he was always available to help over the rough administrative hurdles."
Current Sergeant-at-Arms Drew Willison said in a statement to CQ Roll Call, “I was very saddened to hear the news of Howard’s passing last evening. Howard served the Senate in many different capacities, being the 33rd Sergeant at Arms from January 1995-September 1996 ... Howard will be missed within the Sergeant at Arms organization and within the larger Senate community.”
Since leaving the Senate, Letchworth said Greene had been "enjoying retirement, splitting his time between Virginia and Florida."
Greene is survived by Letchworth, his first wife Barbara Cerney, his brother Richard, his sister-in-law Virginia, and his two nephews and their families. There will be a celebration of Greene's life at the Lewes Yacht Club in Delaware on Sunday, Nov. 30, from 1 to 4 p.m.
Hannah Hess and Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.
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