Today, I pay tribute to our former colleague and my friend, former U.S. Senator Roger Jepsen.
He passed away last Friday, at age 91, at the Clarissa C. Cook Hospice House, in the Quad-Cities.
An Iowa native and American patriot, Roger devoted his life in service to his family, faith and community.
He spent his youth on his family farm near Cedar Falls, about five miles from where I was born.
I wasn’t acquainted with Roger until he represented Scott County in the Iowa Legislature. I wish I would’ve known him earlier when we were neighbors as children.
For 14 years, he served our country in the United States Army.
He was a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division and later served in the Army Reserves.
Roger worked for 20 years in the life insurance business and was a member of the National Association of Life Underwriters.
Along the way, Roger answered the call to public service and civic leadership.
For more than two decades, he climbed the ranks of elected office in service to his community and the state of Iowa.
He started out as a county supervisor in Scott County and went on to represent his neighbors in Iowa Senate District 15.
An active grassroots leader in the Republican Party of Iowa, Roger served as a delegate to the National GOP Convention in 1972 and 1980.
In 1968, he was elected as Iowa’s 39th Lieutenant Governor, where he served with Governor Bob Ray for two terms.
Until Iowa adopted reforms under a constitutional amendment in 1972, the office for governor and lieutenant governor were on the ballot every two years in my home state.
In 1978, when I won re-election to Iowa’s then-third congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives, Roger Jepsen flipped Iowa’s U.S. Senate seat.
He defeated the incumbent Senator Dick Clark. At the time, political observers gave Roger scant chance for a victory.
But on Election Day, he pulled off the upset, beating his opponent by more than 26,000 votes.
In that same election, Iowans returned both houses of the state legislature to Republican control for what would be Governor Ray’s final term in office.
In the previous legislative session, Iowa expanded its historic “right to work” law. For decades, this instrumental policy has enhanced Iowa’s ability to attract businesses, create jobs and grow wages across the state.
It was under attack in the last election. Iowa voters responded by expanding the Republican majority at the Iowa state house, under a Republican administration led by Governor Kim Reynolds.
During his six years here in the U.S. Senate, Roger solidified his pro-family, pro-life credentials.
A fiscal conservative, he flexed steadfast support for the military and worked to put money back in taxpayer pockets.
In 1981, he voted to end “bracket creep” by indexing for inflation across-the-board tax rate cuts.
An outspoken advocate for rural America, Senator Jepsen fought to boost the economic recovery across the farm belt.
He championed farm exports, expanded lending and tax relief for farmers.
He was chairman of the Joint Economic Committee and served on the Senate Agriculture and Armed Services Committees.
After losing his bid for re-election in 1984, President Reagan nominated him to serve as chairman of the National Credit Union Administration, where he served from 1985 to 1993.
Although he and his wife Dee retired to Florida, Scott County was always “home.”
Roger and Dee devoted considerable time and effort to end religious persecution and promote religious liberty.
Alongside Congressman Jack Kemp, they co-founded the Christian Rescue Effort for the Emancipation of Dissidents, known as CREED, to promote religious freedom as a human freedom around the world.
Each time I return home by way of Cedar Falls, I pass Jepsen Road.
In fact, it intersects with my street.
Over the years, Roger and my paths crossed many times in service to Iowans.
Seeing that street sign reminds me that no dream is too big for Iowa farm kids.
Roger and Dee celebrated 62 years of marriage in September.
Together, they raised six children. Barbara and I extend our condolences to his family and loved ones.
On behalf of the state of Iowa, we thank him for his service here on Earth as he’s welcomed home into the hands of the Lord.