SCRANTON — One of the most influential and powerful politicians from our area has died.
Former Governor William W. Scranton died Sunday in California at the age of 96.
While his family founded the city of Scranton, William Scranton’s influence reached around the world.
Gov. Scranton is honored on Courthouse Square on a monument of distinguished Lackawanna County citizens. We talked to people who knew Scranton as a congressman, governor, presidential candidate, ambassador to the United Nations and as a man, and they all say to call him “just” a distinguished citizen is a serious understatement.
When Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty was just starting out running the Electric City, there was one man’s political advice he took over all the rest, advice from a man bearing the same name as his city.
“Someone I called and asked his opinion, or he would call me up and tell me ‘you’re making a mistake, you are not going to do it.’ And usually – not usually, all the time – I would listen to him. He was a very bright man and we were privileged to have someone of his magnitude in our community,” said Mayor Doherty.
In his 96 years, William Scranton wore a lot of hats, and left quite the mark on the national Republican Party, first as a congressman, then as governor of Pennsylvania, then as a candidate for the Republican nomination for president in 1964.
Later on, he was a top advisor to President Gerald Ford.
“I think people underestimated his influence, because you would see him walking down the street, you didn’t realize he could call the President of the United States or the governor and say “I need this project done.” It would be much different,” said Mayor Doherty.
Attorney Robert Gownley didn’t know Governor Scranton personally, but as a high school student and political junkie in the 1960s he watched Scranton in awe.
“He was the favorite son, and I can remember packing kits for the delegates, gift bags or whatever. And we were very proud of him, even though he didn’t win,” said Gownley.
Gownley says even though Bill Scranton’s political career ended years ago his influence is still felt here.
His work developing old coal mining lands helped Lackawanna County out of trying economic times .You almost wonder what his advice would be now.
“Now we have different challenges. We are going to have to deal with the debt of the city of Scranton and we’re going to need another Bill Scranton to come forward,” Gownley said.
Governor William Scranton passed away Sunday in California where he was living with his wife Mary. He was 96 years old.
A spokesperson for the family says they plan to have the governor laid to rest back home in the Scranton area.
Newswatch 16 Mike Stevens talked to Governor Scranton a few years ago. Click here for that story.