Jim Jeffords' Career, In Sound And Pictures

Aug 18, 2014

Following the Monday morning death of former Vermont U.S. Senator Jim Jeffords, VPR dug into its archives for recordings of the pivotal moments in Jeffords' career – including his bombshell 2001 announcement that he would leave the Republican party.

We also dusted off the tape of Jeffords' announcement, in 2005, that he would retire from the Senate, re-digitized The Jeffords Effect, a five-part series we created in 2002, and collected photographs of Jeffords' time in Washington and Vermont.

Jeffords' career was defined by a fierce independent streak, and advocacy for Vermont agriculture, in particular dairy farmers.

From left, Sen. Jim Jeffords, Rep. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Patrick Leahy celebrate the passing of the Northeast Dairy Compact in Montpelier on Nov. 22, 1999.
Credit Toby Talbot / AP

The Rutland native was the son of a chief justice of the state Supreme Court. He worked his way up the political ladder, serving in the Statehouse, as attorney general, in the U.S. House and the Senate.

U.S. Sen. Jim Jeffords, R-Vt., right, is seen with his former seatmate, U.S. Sen. Robert Stafford, R-Vt. in Burlington in this Feb. 14, 1985 file photo.
Credit Toby Talbot / AP

Jeffords was known for his sense of humor and affable nature. He appeared with the "Singing Senators" but later alienated his fellow performers when he quit the Republican Party.

Jeffords, right, performed with the "Singing Senators" on August 15, 1996 at the GOP Convention in San Deigo. From left are Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Miss., Idaho Sen. Larry Craig and Missouri Sen. John Ashcroft.
Credit Ron Edmonds / AP/file

Throughout his four decades in politics, Jeffords frequently made allies across the aisle.

President Bill Clinton signs the FDA Modernization Act of 1997 during a ceremony in the Old Executive Office Building in Washington Friday Nov. 21, 1997. Behind the president, from left are, Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., Sen. Jim Jeffords, R-Vt., Vice President Al Gore, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. and Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas.
Credit Ruth Fremson / AP/file

When Jeffords left the Republican Party in 2001, he was branded a traitor by the GOP but hailed as a hero by many others.  

In 2001, Jim Jeffords separated from the Republican party, taking away the GOP majority in the Senate.
Credit Toby Talbot / AP File Photo

One year after Jeffords' switch, VPR produced a five-part series on the fallout of the politician's move to the Independent Party.

In 2005, after nearly 40 years of public service, Jeffords announced that he would not seek a fourth term in the U.S. Senate.

Sen. Jim Jeffords, left, walks with his family on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 27, 2006, prior to delivering a farewell speech on the Senate floor. Shown, from left, are Jeffords; his grandson, Patton; Patton's mother, Jeffords' daughter-in-law Maura; Jeffords wife, Liz; and his son; Leonard.
Credit Dennis Cook / AP

In the last years of his life, Jeffords suffered from Alzheimer's disease. A Navy veteran, he lived at a retirement home for veterans in Wahington, D.C. where he died Monday morning. 

Editor's note: If you are currently using the VPR app, we recommend that you open the full version of this story.