10 Things You Didn't Know About Arlen Specter

Specter has represented Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate since 1981.


1. Arlen Specter was born to immigrants Harry Specter and Lillie Shanin on February 12, 1930, in Wichita, Kan. His father was a peddler who owned a junkyard where the future senator used to help cut down oil derricks and load scrap iron into rail freight cars.

2. In 1951, Specter graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor's degree in international relations. He then joined the Air Force and attained the rank of first lieutenant during the Korean War. He later returned to school, receiving his L.L.B. from Yale in 1956.

3. Specter was the assistant district attorney of Philadelphia from 1959 to 1964. He became district attorney in 1966 but lost his bid for re-election in 1973.

4. In 1964, Specter served as assistant counsel for the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He was a strong advocate of the controversial "single-bullet theory," suggesting that a lone shooter was behind the assassination.

5. Specter ran for mayor of Philadelphia in 1967 and lost. He ran for Pennsylvania's Republican senatorial nomination in 1976 and lost again. He ran for his party's gubernatorial nomination in 1978 and lost yet again. He finally won election to the U.S. Senate in 1980, when he faced another three-time loser—former Pittsburgh Mayor Peter F. Flaherty.

6. In 1992, Specter nearly lost his re-election bid after angering many constituents through his tough questioning of Anita Hill during the confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas's appointment to the Supreme Court.

7. Specter has battled Hodgkin's lymphoma twice, in 2005 and 2008. He received his last chemotherapy treatment in July 2008 and has since received a clean bill of health.

8. Specter is an ardent Philadelphia Phillies fan. In June, 2008, he was the guest of honor for the Phillies' Mentoring Awareness Day. Five months later, he and Sen. Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, introduced a Senate resolution congratulating the Phillies for their World Series championship.

9. Specter attributes his passion for public service to an experience involving his father. Private Harry Specter was wounded in World War I. When the government broke its promise to pay veterans a $500 bonus, the veterans marched on Washington in 1932. The Army was ordered to clear the veterans from the Mall. The operation left several veterans dead and hundreds injured. Specter says he has been on his way to Washington ever since to get his father's bonus.

10. Specter lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Joan. They have two grown sons, Shanin and Steve, and four grandchildren, Silvi, Perri, Lilli, and Hatti.