The First State is mourning the loss of one of its political giants.
Former Governor and Congressman Pete du Pont died Saturday at age 86 after battling a long illness according to his former chief-of-staff Bob Perkins.
Du Pont served two terms as governor from 1977 to 1985, taking office with the state facing a fiscal crisis.
During his tenure, the Republican led passage the 1981 “Financial Center Development Act,” which created Delaware’s credit card and financial services industry. He cut taxes twice and championed to deregulation to make Delaware more business friendly.
Du Pont also created the independent Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council to provide state revenue estimates to build its budgets and led the state to implement a 98 percent spending limit, sending remaining money to a “rainy day” fund.
Du Pont also oversaw the state’s implementation of a court-ordered desegregation of public schools in the late 1970s.
In his 1985 farewell address, du Pont reflected on his 8 years of work as the state's chief executive.
"I believed then [when he took office] that Delaware's governmental problems could be solved, that we could have a government that lived within its means, that we could have government capable of not just fulfilling its legal obligations, but imporving the quality of life for all Delawareans as well," said du Pont.
Before his time as governor, du Pont served as the state’s Congressman from 1971 to 1977. He ended his political career after a failed run for President in 1988.
In a tweet, Gov. John Carney called du Pont "good and decent man who loved Delaware" and touted his work as governor.
"As Governor, he found ways to work across the aisle to address an immediate fiscal crisis and make Delaware more competitive economically," Carney tweeted.
In a statement, Sen. Tom Carper says he's saddened to hear the news, adding he's been "blessed with many mentors over the years, and I count him as one of my very best mentors and later on, friends."
Carper, also a former Delaware governor and State Treasurer during du Pont's time leading state, also lauded du Pont's work to put the state and solid financial ground.
"In 1976, as I assumed the role of State Treasurer and Pete became Governor, Delaware faced critical financial challenges. But we came together - a Republican Governor, Democratic State Treasurer and the Democratic and Republican leadership in the legislature, and eventually put into place reforms that continue to serve our state well today," said Carper in his statement. "Pete knew that one of the best things you can do to help someone is help them get a job, so he was very focused on creating a nurturing environment for job growth and job preservation as Governor. I worked hard to continue that model he created during the eight years I served in that role."
Delaware's Secretary of State Jeff Bullock called "a true icon of Delaware politics."
"He represented much more than his political party or his famous family. He was Delaware and all it’s complex pieces," said Bullock in a statement. "His brand of politics seems distant in today’s divisive environment, but reminds us of a day when partisans weren’t sworn enemies and finding consensus to move forward together was a key measure of success in governing."
Sen. Chris Coons said du Pont "cared deeply about his state and country, and his sense of duty and level of dedication were self-evident during a long career in public service."
"Pete labored tirelessly to strengthen our state finances, and he knew the importance of bringing businesses to Delaware, said Coons in a statement. "He will be missed by many and remembered for his kind, authentic, and good-humored nature."
In more recent years, du Pont established the Pete du Pont Individual Freedom Award in 2003. It's given to an individual who champions a successful idea which has led to economic growth or brought innovation to the private sector. The Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation was established in 2017 to create jobs and opportunity in Delaware.
He is survived by his wife, Elise, four children and 10 grandchildren, as well as his sister Michele. Due to Covid-19, a memorial service will be held at a later date.