Posted: Dec. 15, 2003

WILLIAM V. ROTH JR., 1921-2003

This obituary was released by the Roth family:

Former U.S. Senator William V. Roth, Jr., a Republican of Delaware, died Saturday, at the age of 82.  Known nationally as the taxpayer’s best friend, Roth was a staunch advocate of limited government spending, co-author of the Roth-Kemp tax cuts, and creator of the Roth IRA.

In Delaware, Roth earned a reputation for providing first-rate constituent services to people regardless of political affiliation.   

Roth was born July 22, 1921 in Great Falls, Montana.  A veteran of World War II, Roth served as a captain in the U.S. Army, and was awarded the Bronze Star. 

Roth earned a bachelors degree from the University of Oregon.  He also earned a Masters in Business Administration and a law degree from Harvard University. 

As a first-term Congressman from Delaware, Roth authored the Roth Catalog – the first comprehensive index of government programs – which continues to be published as the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance.   

During his tenure in the Senate, Roth chaired both the Senate Finance and Governmental Affairs Committees.   

As chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, Roth pushed forward the most sweeping welfare reforms in history and fought for the first balanced budget in over 30 years.  He conducted the most extensive investigation ever into the workings of the Internal Revenue Service, disclosing widespread abuses of taxpayers and agency employees, and co-authored the successful IRS Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998.   

His work to promote family savings for home ownership and education, as well as self-reliance in retirement resulted in expanding traditional Individual Retirement Accounts, increasing the amount of money that can be saved by homemakers, and allowing penalty-free withdrawals to be made for first-time home purchases and educational needs.  The Roth IRA, which allows individuals to invest taxable income that can be withdrawn tax-free in retirement, is so much a part of everyday language that it is even listed in the dictionary. 

An expert in trade policy, as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Roth successfully enacted the most important trade legislation in more than a decade, including Permanent Normal Trade Relations status for China, the African Growth and Opportunity Act and the Caribbean Basin Initiative. 

Roth was also a leader on foreign policy.  As President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and chairman of the Senate NATO Observer Group, Roth championed strong security alliances in Europe and Asia.  He led the Senate in working to build consensus for NATO enlargement and the unconditional extension of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.  He was a co-founder of the Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum and was the recipient of the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun for his work furthering U.S.-Japan relations.  A number of other states including Germany, Poland, Slovakia and Taiwan also accorded Roth their highest awards for distinguished service.  He served as a fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies and was a member of the Trilateral Commission, Council on Foreign Relations and the East-West Center.

 As former chairman of the Senate Government Affairs Committee and chairman of the Senate Permanent subcommittee on Investigations, he led the effort to reinvent government, making it more effective and requiring departments and agencies to set and meet performance standards.  He was a primary force behind the drive to clean up wasteful spending, including costly and inefficient Pentagon procurement practices.  He authored landmark legislation to protect children from pornographic exploitation and launched investigations into professional boxing, emerging organized criminal groups, and union corruption. 

Roth was also an acclaimed environmentalist.  He received the Wilderness Society’s exclusive Ansel Adams Award for his work to protect pristine lands, such as the coastal plain of Alaska, and to clean up America’s beaches, bays, and rivers. 

Roth was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1966, and reelected in 1968.  He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1970, where he served 30 years.  Roth also served as Delaware State Republican Chairman from 1961 to 1964. 

Roth is survived by his wife of 38 years, the Honorable Jane Richards Roth a federal judge with the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals; his son William V. Roth III and his wife Eunhee of Arlington, Virginia; his daughter, Katharine K. Roth and her husband Chris Weston of Washington, D.C.; four grandsons, and his beloved St. Bernard, Wilhelm IV. 

Funeral services will be private.  However, a public memorial service is planned for 2 pm Sunday, December 21 at University of Delaware’s Clayton Hall in Newark.