William Delahunt, Former Congressman and Skilled Bipartisan Negotiator, Dies at 82

Bill Greene/Getty Images
Bill Greene/Getty Images

William Delahunt, a former Democratic Congressman from Massachusetts who was widely respected for his ability to work across the aisle, died on Saturday at his home, a family spokesman said. He was 82 years old.

“While we mourn the loss of such a tremendous person, we also celebrate his remarkable life and his legacy of dedication, service, and inspiration,” Delahunt’s family said in a statement. “We could always turn to him for wisdom, solace, and a laugh, and his absence leaves a gaping hole in our family and our hearts.”

Delahunt represented Massachusetts’ 1oth district from 1997 to 2011, when he retired from the chamber. In an interview with the Boston Globe shortly before his congressional exit, Delahunt said that he owed his successful legislative career to his skill with bipartisan negotiation.

“Every significant piece of legislation that I got on a president’s desk was a result of my relationships with key Republicans,” he told the Globe in 2011.

Other Massachusetts officials agreed. Francis X. Bellotti, a former Massachusetts attorney general, told the newspaper, “I don’t think anyone really appreciated how important he was. He was one of the very few people who could go across the aisle and do business with the Republicans.”

“If we had more Bill Delahunts, we wouldn’t be having the problems we’re having today,” Bellotti added.

Delahunt’s legislative achievements included the passage of the Child Citizen Act of 2000, which gave citizenship to children adopted from other countries. In 2005, he also helped arrange a trade agreement that brought Venezuelan oil to heat low-income Massachusetts homes.

Before his election to Congress, Delahunt was a pioneering district attorney in Norfolk County, an office he held for more than 20 years. Though he was a self-described liberal Democrat, Delahunt pursued a tough-on-crime agenda and established both a civil rights unit and a domestic violence unit for the Norfolk prosecutor’s office.

In 2022, the Norfolk County Superior Court Building was renamed in his honor, a recognition of his more than four decades of public service.

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