Norman Lent, one of Nassau County's longest serving and most influential congressmen, died Monday of cancer complications at his home in Arlington, Va. He was 81.
Lent, a Republican, retired from Congress in 1992 after serving his South Shore district for 22 years. His 71 percent margin of victory in 1988 stands as the largest ever of any Long Island congressman.
"The essence of the man was that Norm Lent never forgot . . . his roots," Nassau GOP leader Joseph Mondello said. "Despite being one of the most influential members of [Congress] . . . Norm always made sure he remained firmly connected to . . . Nassau." Mondello noted that Lent remained a county committeeman "for virtually his entire tenure in Washington."
Former Congressman George Hochbrueckner, a Democrat from Suffolk County, said; "Norm was a true gentlemen, a credit to the Republican Party and a colleague who worked in a bipartisan and effective way for the people of Long Island. He played a major role with Billy Joel and me in protecting Peconic Bay by helping to pass the law that placed Peconic Bay into the National Estuary Program."
Born in Oceanside and raised primarily in East Rockaway, Lent attended public schools there and in Lynbrook and Malverne, graduating from the latter in 1948. He earned a B.A. from Hofstra University in 1952, and after a two-year tour of active duty in Korea as a naval officer, he earned a degree from the Cornell University School of Law in 1957. He practiced law in Lynbrook.
Lent had served in the State Senate for eight years before going to Washington. He had served as a Republican state committeeman and the Republican leader of East Rockaway, and also won several Conservative Party primaries.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), who succeeded Lent in Washington and had been his campaign manager in 1972, said: "Norm Lent was a true friend and an outstanding congressman. He gave me my start in politics, and I will always be indebted to him."
Lent's ouster of Democratic Rep. Allard K. Lowenstein in 1970 was viewed seen as a referendum on President Richard M. Nixon's conduct of the Vietnam War. Lowenstein was a leading critic.
Lent served during the administrations of five presidents -- Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He became the ranking Republican on the House committees on Energy and Commerce and Merchant Marine & Fisheries.
"Lent was highly regarded by his colleagues for his ability to bring opposing factions together to produce workable compromises on important legislation," said John Hambel of Arlington, a friend and former Lent employee.
Lent is survived by his wife, Barbara Morris-Lent, of Arlington; a son, Norman F. Lent III, of Alexandria, Va.; a daughter, Barbara Ann Roberts, of Houston; a brother, Robert Lent, of North Bellmore, and five grandchildren.
The family will receive friends from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. Tuesday at Everly-Wheatley Funeral Home in Alexandria. Funeral services will be at Fairlington United Methodist Church in Alexandria on June 20 at 11 a.m. Interment at Arlington National Cemetery will take place at a future date.
Lent supported the Wounded Warriors Project and the Salvation Army, his family said.