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William Roth
Sen. William V. Roth (R-DE).jpg
United States Senator
from Delaware
In office
January 1, 1971 – January 3, 2001
Preceded byJohn J. Williams
Succeeded byTom Carper
Chair of the Senate Finance Committee
In office
October 1, 1995 – January 3, 2001
Preceded byBob Packwood
Succeeded byMax Baucus
Chair of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee
In office
January 3, 1995 – October 1, 1995
Preceded byJohn Glenn
Succeeded byTed Stevens
In office
January 3, 1981 – January 3, 1987
Preceded byAbraham Ribicoff
Succeeded byJohn Glenn
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Delaware's at-large district
In office
January 3, 1967 – December 31, 1970
Preceded byHarris McDowell
Succeeded byPete du Pont
Personal details
William Victor Roth Jr.

(1921-07-22)July 22, 1921
Great Falls, Montana, U.S.
DiedDecember 13, 2003(2003-12-13) (aged 82)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political partyRepublican
(m. 1965)
Alma materUniversity of Oregon
Harvard Business School
Harvard Law School
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
Years of service1943–1946
Battles/warsWorld War II

William Victor Roth Jr. (July 22, 1921 – December 13, 2003) was an American lawyer and politician from Wilmington, Delaware. He was a veteran of World War II and a member of the Republican Party. He served from 1967 to 1970 as the lone U.S. Representative from Delaware and from 1971 to 2001 as a U.S. Senator from Delaware.[1] He is the most recent Republican to have served as a U.S. Senator from Delaware.

Roth was a sponsor of legislation creating the Roth IRA, an individual retirement plan that can be set up with post-tax dollars, offering tax-free withdrawals.

Early life and family

Roth was born in Great Falls, Montana, the son of Clara (née Nelson) and William Victor Roth, who ran a brewery.[2] His paternal grandparents were German and his maternal grandparents were Swedish.[3] He attended public schools in Helena, Montana, graduating from Helena High School. Roth started college at Montana State University before moving on to graduate from the University of Oregon in 1943, Harvard Business School in 1947, and Harvard Law School in 1949. During World War II he served in a United States Army intelligence unit from 1943 until 1946.

After being admitted to the California Bar in 1950, he moved permanently to Delaware in 1954, and began his work as an attorney for the Hercules Corporation. He married Jane Richards in 1965 and they had two children, William III and Katharine. Jane Richards Roth is also a lawyer. She was U.S. District Court Judge, for the District of Delaware from 1985 until 1991 and since was a Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. They were members of the Episcopal Church.

Professional and political career

Roth speaks on the floor of the Senate, c. 2000
Roth speaks on the floor of the Senate, c. 2000

After losing the election for Lieutenant Governor of Delaware in 1960, Roth was chair of the Delaware Republican Party until 1964.[4] In 1966, he defeated incumbent U.S. Representative Harris McDowell, and went on to serve two terms in the United States House of Representatives from January 3, 1967, until December 31, 1970. Roth voted in favor of the Civil Rights Act of 1968.[5]

He then began his five terms in the United States Senate, succeeding the retiring incumbent senator John J. Williams. He served in the U.S. Senate from January 1, 1971, having been appointed when Williams left office two days early, until January 3, 2001, having been defeated in the 2000 election by the Democratic candidate, Governor Tom Carper. Many consider Roth's defeat due to his age and health, as he collapsed twice during the campaign, once in the middle of a television interview and once during a campaign event.[6][7][8]

Roth was known for fiscal conservatism. Critics blamed him for national deficits during the presidency of Ronald Reagan.[9] He was a longtime member of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs and the Senate Committee on Finance, serving as Chairman from September 12, 1995 through January 3, 2001. He was best remembered as a strong advocate of tax cuts, and he co-authored the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981, also known as the Kemp-Roth Tax Cut with Jack Kemp. Roth was also the legislative sponsor of the individual retirement account plan that bears his name, the Roth IRA. It is a popular individual retirement account that has existed since 1998.[citation needed] The Roth 401(k), which did not become available until 2006, is also named after Roth.[10] He was also one of the few Republicans to vote for the Brady Bill and the ban on semi-automatic weapons. Roth strongly supported environmental protections. Roth was also very engaged in international affairs and policy. He served as the President of NATO's parliament, the North Atlantic Assembly, from 1996 to 1998.[11]

In 1977, Roth was one of nine senators to vote against the Senate adopting a stringent code of ethics intended to assist with the restoration of public confidence in Congress.[12]

On December 2, 1981, Roth was one of four senators to vote against[13] an amendment to President Reagan's MX missiles proposal that would divert the silo system by $334 million as well as earmark further research for other methods that would allow giant missiles to be based. The vote was seen as a rebuff of the Reagan administration.[14][15]

Roth voted in favor of the bill establishing Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a federal holiday and the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987 (as well to override President Reagan's veto).[16][17][18] Roth voted in favor of the nominations of Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Roth was a witty man but not a natural campaigner. To help himself, he would ease himself into public appearances by bringing along a Saint Bernard dog. His succession of St. Bernards through his 34-year political career became a trademark of sorts.[19]


Roth died in Washington, D.C. of heart failure on December 13, 2003 at the age of 82. The Chesapeake & Delaware Canal Bridge carrying Delaware Route 1 was dedicated as the Senator William V. Roth Jr. Bridge, and a celebration was held on July 9, 2007. The bridge is a cable-stayed bridge and notable landmark in northern Delaware. Roth helped secure its funding.

Electoral history

Public offices
Office Type Location Began office Ended office Notes
U.S. Representative Legislature Washington January 3, 1967 January 3, 1969
January 3, 1969 December 31, 1970
U.S. Senator January 1, 1971 January 3, 1977
January 3, 1977 January 3, 1983
January 3, 1983 January 3, 1989
January 3, 1989 January 3, 1995
January 3, 1995 January 3, 2001
United States Congressional service
Dates Congress Chamber Majority President Committees Class/District
1967–1969 90th U.S. House Democratic Lyndon B. Johnson at-large
1969–1971 91st Richard Nixon
1971–1973 92nd U.S. Senate Democratic Governmental Affairs
class 1
1973–1975 93rd Richard Nixon
Gerald R. Ford
1975–1977 94th Gerald Ford
1977–1979 95th Jimmy Carter
1979–1981 96th
1981–1983 97th U.S. Senate Republican Ronald Reagan Governmental Affairs, Chair
1983–1985 98th
1985–1987 99th
1987–1989 100th U.S. Senate Democratic Governmental Affairs
1989–1991 101st George H. W. Bush
1991–1993 102nd
1993–1995 103rd Bill Clinton
1995–1997 104th U.S. Senate Republican Governmental Affairs, Chair
Finance, Chair
1997–1999 105th
1999–2001 106th
Election results
Year Office Election Republican Votes % Democrat Votes %
1960 Lt. Governor General William V. Roth Jr. 96,671 50% Eugene Lammot 97,826 50%
1966 U.S. Representative William V. Roth Jr. 90,961 56% Harris B. McDowell Jr. 72,142 44%
1968 117,827 59% 82,993 41%
1970 U.S. Senator 94,979 59% Jacob W. Zimmerman 64,740 40%
1976 125,454 56% Thomas C. Maloney 98,042 44%
1982 105,357 55% David N. Levinson 84,413 44%
1988 151,115 62% Shien Biau Woo 92,378 38%
1994 111,074 56% Charles M. Oberly III 84,540 42%
2000 William V. Roth Jr. 142,891 44% Thomas R. Carper 181,566 56%


  • Roth, William V. Jr.; Nixon, William H. (1999). The Power to Destroy: How the IRS Became America. Atlantic Monthly Press. ISBN 0-87113-748-8.


  1. ^ "Roth, William Victor Jr. (1921 - 2003)". United States Congress. Retrieved July 23, 2011.
  2. ^ "Roth Biography". Delaware Historical Society. Retrieved August 8, 2016.
  3. ^ "United States Census, 1930", FamilySearch, retrieved April 26, 2018
  4. ^ Miller, Beth (December 15, 2003). "Roth remembered for 'pure heart'". The News Journal. Archived from the original on December 17, 2003. Retrieved July 29, 2017.
  6. ^ Gorenstein, Nathan. "In Delaware, Gov. Carper ousts 5-term Sen. Roth". Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on July 12, 2001. Retrieved July 29, 2017.
  7. ^ "Delaware U.S. Race, 2000 -- Sussex County Online, Delaware". Retrieved December 6, 2016.
  8. ^ Wilkie, Curtis (October 26, 2000). "In tight race, health issues dog Delaware's Roth". Boston Globe. Archived from the original on February 12, 2001.
  9. ^ "Sen. William Roth, 82; Created Popular Retirement Account". LA Times. December 15, 2003. Retrieved October 4, 2014.
  10. ^ Dustin, Woodard. "About: Mutual Funds: The Roth 401k".
  11. ^ "NATO PA - PRESIDENTS FROM 1955 TO 2014". Retrieved August 8, 2016.
  12. ^ "SENATE, 86‐9, ADOPTS A STRICT ETHICS CODE TO BUILD CONFIDENCE". New York Times. April 2, 1977.
  13. ^ "The 90-4 vote by which the Senate approved the..." UPI. December 3, 1981.
  14. ^ Roberts, Steven V. (December 3, 1981). "SENATORS REJECT PLAN FOR PLACING MX MISSILE IN SILOS". New York Times.
  15. ^ Webbe, Stephen (December 4, 1981). "Reagan scorns Senate rejection of silo-based MX missile plan". The Christian Science Monitor.
  16. ^ "TO PASS H.R. 3706. (MOTION PASSED) SEE NOTE(S) 19".

Other sources

External links

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Delaware's at-large congressional district

Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Delaware
(Class 1)

1970, 1976, 1982, 1988, 1994, 2000
Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by  U.S. senator (Class 1) from Delaware
Served alongside: J. Caleb Boggs, Joe Biden
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chair of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chair of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chair of the Senate Finance Committee
Succeeded by
This page was last edited on 1 August 2022, at 15:05
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