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Richard Mallary, 82; former Vt. congressman, speaker

Associated Press / September 29, 2011

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BROOKFIELD, Vt. - Richard Mallary, a former Vermont dairy farmer who went on to become the speaker of the Vermont House and then represented the state in Congress for three years, has died.

He was 82.

Mr. Mallary, a Republican who served in the administrations of several Vermont governors, died Tuesday at his home in Brookfield. He had been suffering from cancer but had been active until days before his death, his nephew Peter Mallary said.

“He was truly brilliant and was always a tremendous friend to me despite the fact that we lived in different parties,’’ said Mallary, a former chairman of the Vermont Democratic Party. “Dick knew better than anyone I’ve ever known how to disagree without being disagreeable.’’

After an absence from the Vermont House of almost 30 years, Mr. Mallary was again elected in 1998. But he lost his seat in the November 2000 election in public backlash against the state’s civil unions law, which he voted for and which gave same-sex couples marriage-like benefits.

Mr. Mallary was born in Springfield, Mass. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1949 and operated a dairy farm in Fairlee from 1950 until 1970.

He was elected to the US House in a special election in 1971 after former US Representative Robert Stafford filled a seat vacated in the US Senate by the death of Winston Prouty. In 1974, Mr. Mallary lost a bid for the US Senate to now Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy.

After leaving elected office, he served in the administrations of Republican governors Richard Snelling and Jim Douglas. He also worked for the Central Vermont Public Service Corp. and the Vermont Electric Power Co.

“Dick Mallary was one of the outstanding public servants in recent Vermont history, and I was very sad to learn of his passing,’’ said US Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent. “Dick was a leader in the Vermont Legislature, and served Vermont proudly in the US House of Representatives.’’

US Representative Peter Welch, the Democrat who holds the seat once held by Mr. Mallary, also lamented his passing.

“Dick Mallary dedicated his life to making Vermont a better place to live and work,’’ Welch said. “He was a humble statesman who put party differences aside for the good of our state.’’

Said Leahy, who defeated Mr. Mallary in the race for US Senate in 1974: “He reflected the best values of his state, his family, and his party, and Vermont benefited from his service, integrity, and character.’’

Mr. Mallary leaves his wife, Jean, children, and grandchildren.