Former Connecticut Governors Lowell P. Weicker, M. Jodi Rell, center, and Dannel P. Malloy sit together during the inauguration of Gov. Ned Lamont, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, inside the William A. O'Neill Armory in Hartford Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, Pool)

This story was updated at 8:20 a.m. on Thursday.

Gov. Ned Lamont directed U.S. and Connecticut flags lowered to half staff in honor of Lowell P. Weicker Jr., the first tribute of many delivered by politicians who served with him, whether in support or opposition, or followed him into an arena that he encouraged others to follow.

Lamont was an unabashed admirer of Weicker, who died Wednesday at age 92. During gubernatorial debates in 2018 and 2022, when asked to identify the best Connecticut governor of his lifetime, Lamont twice gave the same answer: Weicker.

“He was a man who was bigger than life, he always was,” Lamont said Wednesday, speaking to reporters at the state Capitol. “He took the lead on a lot of issues before they were really big in the public consciousness.”

[Lowell Weicker, Connecticut governor and U.S. senator, dies at 92]

It was Weicker who encouraged Lamont, then a political unknown, to challenge U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman over the war in Iraq. Lamont defeated Lieberman in a Democratic primary, but Lieberman won reelection as a petitioning candidate.

“He was very forceful in terms of making sure I stood tall,” Lamont said of Weicker.

Over the years, their relationship grew as the elder politician continued to offer guidance and mentorship; Weicker was a presence at Lamont’s first inauguration as governor in 2019.

Lieberman ruefully noted common cause with Weicker and the “twists of history” that made them antagonists in 1988, when he defeated Weicker.

Whether they are his contemporaries or younger, politicians have Weicker stories. Many made visits to his memento-full study in the Old Lyme home he shared with his wife, Claudia.

“Getting to know Sen. Weicker in his later years will go down as one of the greatest pleasures of my life,” U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy said on Twitter. “Sitting in his study, with his beloved Claudia at his side, listening to him tell stories about his time in Washington and Hartford, left me mesmerized.”

Lamont and former U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, whose tenure in the Senate overlapped with Weicker’s for eight years, were luncheon guests. Lamont’s predecessor, Dannel P. Malloy, hosted Weicker and his wife, Claudia, for drinks at the Executive Residence. All three remembered him fondly.

Lamont said he last visited with Weicker about six weeks ago.

“He was more in a listening mode,” Lamont said. “But that was not true most of his life.”

Some of the other statements and remembrances offered, including one issued Thursday by the White House:

President Joe Biden: “Lowell Weicker and I served together in the U.S. Senate for nearly two decades. He was blunt, brave, committed to his convictions, and fiercely independent. And I was proud to call him a friend.

“Throughout his career – from his days as a young Republican senator on the frontlines of the Watergate hearings, to his years as an independent governor who ignored politics to do what he believed was right – Lowell had the courage to take tough stands, speak the truth, and stand up for the better angels of our nation.

“He built an extraordinary record of service to the people of Connecticut and to our country – serving in the United States Army, as well as in local and state government, and as a U.S. congressman, senator, governor, and presidential candidate. He fought for disability rights, helping to lay the groundwork for passage of the civil rights landmark Americans with Disabilities Act; and worked in Congress and for a decade after to boost funding for medical research and disease prevention.

“Throughout, Lowell was guided not by party, but by principle. He was a fearless moderating force who stood up for those who couldn’t always stand for themselves – and he relished the fight.”

Gov. Ned Lamont:  “Lowell and Claudia have been great friends to Annie and me for many years, and I am grateful for the counsel and advice that he provided. He truly cared about implementing policies that improve Connecticut for the better, and I admire his independent way of leading. Lowell never ducked a tough battle, absolutely convinced that he was right, and he usually was. He was always bigger than life, and he always will be. On behalf of the people of the state of Connecticut, I thank Governor Weicker and his entire family for everything they have provided our state. Annie and I extend our deepest sympathies.”

Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz: “Connecticut has lost a legendary, larger than life, and lionhearted leader. Lowell Weicker was a dedicated public servant who committed his life to his community, his state, and his nation for over four decades. He became a public figure as a member of the Senate Watergate Committee, where he became the first Republican senator to call for Richard Nixon’s resignation. His political courage was inspiring as he guided Connecticut through difficult financial times, ushering in measures that would help our state to build a more sustainable future. A fiercely independent-minded individual, Lowell was unafraid to speak his mind — he didn’t sugar-coat things or fear an unpopular decision. He did and said what he believed was right. Lowell exemplified what it meant to lead with compassion and empathy, but also a clear toughness. Throughout the years, he’s remained a mentor to me and so many others. The governor and I will miss his advice and wise counsel. Our hearts go out to his wife Claudia and their family.”

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy: (in a long Twitter thread): “Lowell Weicker will go down as one of the most consequential leaders in Connecticut history, and I’m heartbroken that he’s gone. He modeled a kind of public service that feels extinct today. He put his convictions and the best interests of the country ahead of party or political gain. He had a north star — what he felt was right — and he took many political risks and made many political enemies to pursue that objective.

“His legacy is too long to recite, but his championing of disability rights, reproductive choice, gay rights, environmental and ocean protection, foreign aid, and AIDS research stand out. Many will remember him for his courageous decision, as a brand new Republican Senator, to call for President Nixon’s resignation. But his real achievements are the legions of bipartisan bills that he wrote and passed, including the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“For me, there is no Connecticut political figure who has played a greater role in my life. I was 17 years old when he bucked both parties and called for the passage of an income tax to solve a massive state fiscal crisis. At that age, I’m sure I knew very little about the wisdom of an income tax, but I remember being stunned that a political leader would champion something he knew to be stingingly unpopular simply because he believed it was the right thing.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal: “Lowell Weicker was always larger than life — fearless, tireless, relentless in fighting for what he believed was right and in serving people. He was a role model in standing up and speaking out for conviction and conscience, even when others disagreed. And he did immense good for Connecticut and for the country. And he did it his way.”

Former Sen. Chris Dodd, whose tenure overlapped with Weicker’s, recalled a respectful coexistence: “I could not recall a single instance in eight years, watched an interview with Lowell or read an article where we disagreed on something, and he was never critical. It was just a rarity to a large extent in the Senate, particularly small-state senators, where you bump into each other all the time.

“He was a spontaneous person. I mean, he reacted from his gut an awful lot of times and his gut instinct wasn’t bad. It could get you in trouble. But he was a great colleague and fun to be with.”

Former Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman: “The passing of Senator Lowell Weicker saddens me and fills me with a rush of memories. Twists of history made us into antagonists in 1988 but before, during, and after that campaign I had great respect for Lowell. In that campaign, I knew I had entered the ring with a passionate and fierce fighter. He made me a better campaigner that year and a better public servant afterwards. And I was very happy that after that campaign we developed a cordial relationship.

“Looking back at Lowell’s service as Senator and Governor from this terribly partisan time in our politics, you have to admire the many times he broke from his party to take a stand, make a statement, or cast a vote because he thought he was right and his party was wrong. We need more of that today. Hadassah and I send our condolences to the family of Lowell Weicker, and hope that you will be blessed, comforted, and inspired by memories of him.”

Former Gov. Dannel P. Malloy: “Lowell Weicker was the type of public servant all of us who’ve held office aspire to be: tough and compassionate at the same time, principled, and never afraid to take tough stances on difficult political and public policy issues. He had a long, storied career, during which he did many great things for Connecticut, and for the country. Cathy and I send our deepest condolences to Claudia and the entire Weicker family.”

Former U.S. senator and governor Lowell P. Weicker at the swearing in of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in 2015. ASSOCIATED PRESS/Pool

Former Gov. M. Jodi Rell: “He was boisterous. He was in command. That was what you thought of him. But also he was determined. Whatever he was thinking and doing, if you didn’t agree with him, he would try to tell you why you should, but he didn’t didn’t mince words.”

While a deputy Republican leader in the House, where she opposed him on the income tax, she witnessed Weicker accosted by angry voters as he entered the Legislative Office Building.

“Somebody yelled at him, some profanity, whatever. And he looked and he said, ‘Listen, if you have a better blanking idea, tell me.’ … That was Lowell Weicker.”

Former Gov. John G. Rowland, the Republican who succeeded Weicker as governor: “Gov. Weicker was a unique public servant serving in local, state and federal office. I always had great respect for his commitment to the state of Connecticut. My prayers are with his family.”

Former state Senate GOP leader John McKinney, whose father succeeded Weicker in the U.S. House: “Many people will describe him and his legacy as bigger than life. He was someone who was willing to stand up and, in his own way, tell his town, his state, his country that they needed to protect those who needed protection. He was willing to stand up and fight for all who were voiceless, for all who are discriminated against. And quite frankly, he was probably at the front of the line on so many of those civil rights fights, you know, working with Ted Kennedy on ending apartheid, an early voice for the gay community and gay rights and taking on the issue in the ’80s of HIV. He was unafraid to speak out against anyone, including a powerful president in his own party in Richard Nixon during Watergate and then Ronald Reagan during a lot of the 80s.”

Stanley A. Twardy, who was an aide to Weicker in Washington and chief of staff in Hartford: “When I worked for Lowell Weicker in the U.S. Senate, there was a time he was involved in a protracted fight with Senator Jesse Helms over school busing and school prayer. Tempers were flaring and emotions ran high. It was clear to see the bombast and emotion for which he was famous. But during that time his young son, Sonny, needed to go to the hospital for a minor procedure, and while we were there he saw a young patient with cancer who clearly was going through a difficult and painful time. He talked to this young man for a bit, and later turned to me and said, ‘That’s why I’m a U.S. Senator – that’s the job of a Senator. To speak up for those who don’t have a voice.’ Whether it was talking to a young man battling a disease, championing the Americans With Disabilities Act or anything else he did in his magnificent career, that was the epitome of Lowell Weicker. A voice for the voiceless.”

U.S. Rep. John B. Larson, a Democrat who in 1991 was state Senate leader opposed to the income tax: “Our hearts go out to Claudia and the entire Weicker family. Governor Weicker was an exceptional leader who never shied away from taking on the difficult tasks of both governance and politics. He led forthrightly and was bold, yet he had an incredible sense of compassion for the people he was sworn to serve and the state he so deeply loved. You always knew where you stood with Lowell Weicker: he didn’t mince words or sugarcoat his intentions. It was an honor to work alongside him, both when we agreed and disagreed. The state of Connecticut was well-served by his integrity and commitment.” 

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney: Lowell Weicker’s “service to our nation and state was always driven by the public good — whether it was caring for the disabled or defending our democracy and the constitution. He did not flinch from entering ‘the arena’ of public affairs, as Theodore Roosevelt called it, to fight the good fight, and in doing so, set an inspiring example of citizenship that will live on for generations to come.”

State Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney: “Lowell Weicker was a champion for what needed to be done even when it was unpopular. During his four years as governor, I served my last term in House and first term in the Senate. I’ll never forget when I met with him then to advocate for state funding to renovate the New Haven Coliseum and talking through all the complications and issues that needed to be addressed at the venue. Governor Weicker at the end just looked at me and said ‘You should blow that place up.’ That meeting was indicative of his blunt, straightforward and humorous style that he brought as governor and for years after as an elder statesman in Connecticut. I am saddened that he has passed and my prayers are with his family and friends.”

State Senate GOP leader Kevin Kelly: “Outspoken. Independent. Principled. Lowell Weicker embodied these qualities and had a deep appreciation for the state and the people of Connecticut. He dedicated his life to public service, getting people involved in their communities, and creating a lasting impact on our state. For that, we owe a debt of gratitude to the former U.S. Senator and Governor. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Claudia, family and friends during this difficult time.”

State Sen. Ryan Fazio of Greenwich: “Lowell Weicker and Greenwich will forever be synonymous. He was a leader who constantly challenged the status quo. He didn’t want to win any popularity contests. He was an independent-minded activist who stood up for what he believed in. He strove to make reforms despite intense political and public criticism. Lowell Weicker was a son of Greenwich who led a unique and impactful life of service to help improve the quality of life in our state and nation. For that, he deserves our gratitude and our respect. Our thoughts and sympathies are with his family, whom he loved dearly.”

CT Mirror staff reporter Ginny Monk contributed to this report.

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

Erica covers economic development for CT Mirror. Before moving to Connecticut to join the staff she worked in Los Angeles for public radio’s Marketplace and, before that, for the Wall Street Journal's L.A. bureau. She grew up in Minneapolis, MN, graduated from Haverford College and earned a master’s in journalism from the University of Southern California.