William Proxmire's Headshot

William Proxmire

- Panelist Blurb

Edward William Proxmire (November 11, 1915 — December 15, 2005) was an American politician. A member of the Democratic Party, he served as a United States Senator from Wisconsin from 1957 to 1989.

Proxmire graduated from The Hill School (in Pottstown, Pennsylvania) in 1933, Yale University in 1938, Harvard Business School in 1940, and Harvard Graduate School of Public Administration in 1948.

During World War II he served as a member of the Military Intelligence Service. After getting his second master's degree, Proxmire moved to Wisconsin to be a reporter for The Capital Times in Madison and to stake out a political career in a favorable state. "They fired me after I'd been there seven months, for labor activities and impertinence," he once said.

In 1946, he married Elsie Rockefeller, a great-granddaughter of William Rockefeller, brother and partner of oil magnate John D. Rockefeller. They had two children, Theodore, who lives in Bethesda, Maryland, and Elsie Proxmire Zwerner, of Scottsdale, Arizona. Elsie Proxmire received an uncontested divorce in 1955. She later married Miles J. McMillin, who had worked with Proxmire as the editor and publisher of The Capital Times. McMillin shot Elsie to death in December 1982.

In 1956, Proxmire married Ellen Hodges Sawall, who brought two children of her own to the marriage, Mary Ellen Poulos, now of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Jan Licht, now of Naperville, Illinois. Together, the couple had two sons, William, who died in infancy, and Douglas, who lives in McLean, Virginia. Nine grandchildren survive Proxmire.

He was also known for his personal fitness, which included jogging and push-ups, so earning him the moniker "Push Up". In 1973, he published a book about staying in shape, entitled You Can Do It: Senator Proxmire's Exercise, Diet and Relaxation Plan. After leaving Congress, Proxmire had an office in the Library of Congress.

After a battle with Alzheimer's disease, Proxmire died in a nursing home, where he had lived for more than four years, in Sykesville, Maryland, on December 15, 2005, aged 90.

NOTE: Bio updated on June 14, 2011.