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Julius Canns, Vermont state senator, 82

ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt. -- Senator Julius Canns died Sunday at his St. Johnsbury home. It was his 82d birthday.

Mr. Canns's colleagues and friends remembered the Republican from Caledonia County as a man of deep conviction, strong voice, and unbending resolve. They also recalled his sense of humor and the pleasure of conversations with him.

The state Senate will change now that Mr. Canns -- whose ancestors were white, black, and American Indian and who was the chamber's only veteran of World War II -- is gone, said Phil Scott, Republican of Washington.

"That voice will be lost and missed, because he did speak clearly in those convictions," said Scott, who sat next to Mr. Canns in the Senate and shared several committee assignments with him. "He was certainly somebody that you quickly admired. He was strong-willed, strong in his convictions, well respected, and he respected others, as well."

Governor Jim Douglas said Sunday night that he would miss Mr. Canns's frequent morning visits during the legislative session.

"So many times in politics, you run into people who are coy," Douglas said. "Julius was not like that. You knew exactly where he stood."

Mr. Canns left little doubt about his feelings on emotionally charged debates during his seven terms in the Senate.

He was a leading opponent of Vermont's civil unions law, and he was incensed that the proponents cast it as a civil rights issue not unlike the battle for equal rights fought by blacks.

"I fought where you folks never have been," he said angrily during a 2000 floor debate. "This is not a civil rights problem. This is a sex problem."

For more than a decade, Mr. Canns pushed the Legislature to pass a resolution condemning desecration of the American flag.

Mr. Canns often wore a stars-and-stripes tie as a reminder of his advocacy, and the measure passed in 2002.

Among Mr. Canns's passions was state recognition of the Abenaki people. He was hospitalized last week and missed a hearing in St. Johnsbury in which 15 people testified in support of recognition.

He leaves his wife, Mary; two sons; and a daughter.

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